THE massacre of 20 children at a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, recently sent shock waves throughout the world.

Not for one moment could the parents of those children ever have imagined that their children's lives would be cut so tragically short.
This Christmas is painful for them.

No Christmas will ever be the same again.

The birth of a child is an occasion of great wonder, something that makes us more open, perhaps, to the really important, big questions of life Ð and death.

Naturally parents speculate about how their child will grow up and what their life will be like.

At the same time, perhaps, parents are aware of the thinness between life and death.

The life of a newly-born baby is amazing - and amazingly fragile, too.
The Christmas story presents us with such big questions.

Others in the story wonder about what will become of Jesus as he grows up, particularly his mother, Mary, and some even think as far ahead as his death.

As well as being Boxing Day, today is also the Feast of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

No doubt his parents didn't think for one minute that he would end up being stoned to death for being a follower of Jesus.

Mary, likewise, would have found it hard to contemplate her son dying on a cross.

None of us knows how our lives will pan out.

Over the centuries countless people have testified, though, to the fact that the story of Jesus helps us gradually to make some kind of sense of our lives - and deaths - for his story is also our story.