I have to say that it seems a little strange writing about Christmas and all the joy that the season brings when the world seems in so much turmoil. The recent terror attacks in Paris and the subsequent alerts and other actions that have followed have sadly reminded us once again that whatever peace there is, it is a fragile peace. There will always be those fellow human beings who will resort to violence and destruction in the name of their cause, whatever that cause may be.
We have been here before of course, too many times, even in my lifetime. Tensions have risen, politicians have deliberated over what to do for the best, wars have been declared against other nations, innocent people have suffered and died as a result – the use of force justified as a means to an end, the ultimate aim being peace and the safety and security of a nation. I think it would be fair to say that whilst we have been here before, somehow this time it feels different, more sinister perhaps, a little less straightforward – if conflict can ever be straightforward. Who is ISIS? Why are some people so keen to join them? What do they hope to achieve? What are their long term goals? The truth is that we barely know the answers to these questions other than some mumbo-jumbo that seems vaguely related to religion.
What is our response to all this – particularly at this time when we are preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to our world and into our lives?
The other Sunday in worship I said that Advent is a time of preparation – a time to get ready for the birth of Jesus. I also said that I’m never quite sure what this means – or what I ought to be doing in preparation other than buying presents and eating too much turkey! On reflection though I think that one way that that we can try and demonstrate our readiness for Jesus is by trying to live the Jesus way, and that is the way of humility and peace.
There is a well-known Christmas song, written in 1955, which begins with the words ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’. Idealistic though it may sound, I am convinced that the presence of ‘peaceful’ people in our communities has a transforming affect, not just on those people, but on the world around. This might not be the only answer to the complexities of the world’s problems, but 2000 years ago God’s answer to the anguish and turmoil of the world was to come among us in the person of Jesus – to be that peaceful presence, to which the angels in heaven sang ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill to all people’. Let it be so.
May I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and God’s richest blessings for the year ahead.