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PORTLAND - Portland-area preachers greeted Christians this holiday who are rocked by theviolence in recent weeks.

Many have asked how the Christmas message of joy, love and gifts can be reconciled with the violence and grief that followed shootings.

Inside the Madeleine church, it was standing room only for the 4 p.m. family mass on Christmas Eve. The happy sight of children contrasted with the images many had seen of grief from the Connecticut shooting.

Earlier, Pastor Mike Biewend said he would encourage the crowds to reach out to others in a spirit of love.

God became flesh in Christ and dwelt amongst us. So all of humanity oozes, drips, God, divinity. And therefore we are called then to be the light of Christ in the world where there is darkness, said Biewend.

At City Bible Church, executive pastor Marc Estes prepared a message of hope for 6,000 members.

This is a great opportunity for us to genuinely love others. The greatest deterrent to evil is love, said Estes.

He added that it s important to gather and remember that despite the challenges we face, God is there to help and we can help the world too.

In fact Jesus himself said love your neighbor as yourself. And this is an opportunity for us to be patient and kind. It s what the season brings, he said.

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