Our world is a place divided. Wars and battles rage between countries, ethnicities, people with any differences. The actions of a small band of people get thrust upon the whole body of people as we generalize our hate with no consideration for context, no compassion for pain, no love for the misguided. People pick sides. Our cup brims with division and hate.
We think we understand and have the right answers. We trust our finite, limited wisdom thinking we have complete answers, but I fear we don’t. Making an idol of our finite understanding, we cling to our ideologies and cast out (dare I say castigate on social media sites) those who think differently than “our perfect and complete way.” As a result, we remain divided and scattered. In our arrogance, we never find the Truth. Putting to shame the counsel of the afflicted, frustrating the plans of the poor, we oppress or become oppressed, forgetting that the Lord is the refuge of the afflicted (Psalm 14:6). In all our efforts to form and protect “my group” and “my way of life,” we end up living in isolated enclaves, casting out those who “don’t belong” or finding ourselves cast out as the one who doesn’t belong.
Things weren’t all that different on that first Christmas. There were wars and battles. There were those oppressed and those oppressing, those who had space and those for whom there “was no room in the inn.” There were those who protected “my way of life” at the expense of others. Those arrogant enough to believe they alone had the right to determine the answers were sometimes even willing to kill to support their cause (consider Herod having the children killed).
But, in the midst of this chaos, a light shines in the darkness. A man and his wife lovingly sit in a crude setting to adore their newborn Baby Boy lying in a feeding trough. Angel choirs sing a song of celebration, announcing glad tidings of peace to a group of shepherds. In turn, the shepherds run to see if such “glad tidings of peace on earth, good will to men” could be true. They fall in worship before the newborn Babe. At the same time, a shining star catches the attention of some astrologers, leading the Magi with gifts from afar. They too come to worship and adore the Child. Rich and poor, people born in the land and people from a distant land, scholars and laborers all join together before Jesus for one purpose—to adore, to worship, to celebrate. They come in peace to celebrate Emmanuel, the Bringer of Peace. I believe they leave changed people—a little more aware of those around them, a little more kind and compassionate, a little more loving—filled with anticipation of a coming Kingdom lead by the law of love.
This Baby grew into a Man who wept as He looked toward the place of His final destination and said, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” As children in the crowd continued to praise Him with words of “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the religious leaders asked Him to quiet the children. But He said, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for Yourself.” Out of the weakest in the society came forth the truth which could lead to peace, the truth that pointed to the only way of peace…the gift of a Son, a Child, the Prince of Peace.
Today, as I contemplated the Prince of Peace and our seeming blindness to His gift, I heard a hymn sung by people who some would wrongly think to be the least powerful in their world. (In fact, they may be some of the strongest people as they remain steadfast in seeking the will of God for their lives in the midst of unjust vilification, great loss, and immense pain.) In this hymn I hear “living stones” cry out. I hear them proclaim a truth born “on the night of Christmas.” “On the night of Christmas, hatred will vanish…the earth blooms…war is buried…Love is born.” I hear the proclamation that as we live a life made possible by the Child born on Christmas, we will more fully realize His kingdom of peace. “When we offer a glass of water to a thirsty person…when we clothe a naked person with a gown of love…when we wipe tears from weeping eyes…when we cushion a hopeless heart with love…” we live out the Christmas message. Peace will grow exponentially when in response to the message of Christmas “I kiss a friend without hypocrisy…when the spirit of revenge dies in me…when hardness is gone from my heart…when my soul melts in the being of God” and “I am in Christmas.” This Christmas let us be “in Christmas.” Let us turn toward the manger and bow in humble adoration and submission before the Baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. With His light before us and His Spirit within us, let us seek peace and pursue it.