We don't know for certain what happened in Berlin. But it increasingly looks like it was terror attack. A huge lorry, carrying metal beams driven by a 23 year old Pakistani asylum seeker into a crowded Christmas market. 12 dead. So far.
We don't know what motivated the driver. What his mental health was like. Whether he was under orders from others. Whether he was rich or poor. But what we do know is that it has proved increasingly hard to stereotype those who have become involved in terrorism. There have been men and women. The well educated and the uneducated. Trainee doctors from affluent families and petty crooks from run down estates.
We don't what the man thought he was doing or who he was doing it for. We don't even know whether he was a Muslim or not. We don't know whether he meant to die in the attack or to flee the scene as it appears he did. But we do know that the only assured way to reach paradise in Islam is through martyrdom. Only if you lay down your life in the name of Allah can you be certain that he will welcome you after death. Allah is merciful, but he doesn't give guarantees to those who die peacefully in their sleep. When I ask my Muslim friends whether they are certain of going to heaven when they die, they tell me that would be a terrible presumption.
We don't know how the German population will respond to the attacks. But we do know that they are already being seized upon by the far-right, anti-immigration parties, as propaganda to justify a blanket ban on offering a home to the homeless and care to the needy.
What I do know is this. That at the first Christmas God gave His Son. And with His Son came a promise:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
If we believe in Him we can be certain of eternal life. Not because we have laid down our lives in His service. But because Jesus laid down His life for us on a cross.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
It's because God the Father of the Lord Jesus is the great giver that there is a Christmas market in Berlin.
It's because He gave Jesus that people who reject Him and hate him can be welcomed back into his family. So we mustn't let events like yesterday's stop us welcoming, loving and making sacrifices for the asylum seeker.
It's because the Christian message of love, forgiveness and the assurance of life after death is totally unique, that we mustn't be afraid of proclaiming it to those of other religions. Because that is the most compassionate thing that we can do..
After all the angel did say:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." (Luke 2:10)