Thursday, December 22, 2016
A Christmas Message
As we enter the Christmas season this weekend, the airwaves, print media and even the sidewalks are saturated with beautiful images of peace and goodwill. Even the ancient Christmas proclamation from the Roman Martyrology which is chanted at midnight mass in some churches on Christmas Eve, associates the birth of Christ with the Pax Romana - "the whole world being at peace" at the time of Jesus' birth, the proclamation says.
These images of peace are seductively enchanting-quiet snowfall, soft candlelight, gentle music, hushed tones, soft blankets... These are the things we might want to associate with the season - even with the birth of the Savior.
Of course, when we take off our cultural holiday filter and look at the actual incident, the actual coming of Jesus into the world, "The Word Made Flesh", as Saint John says, we realize there is a disconnect. The whole world was not actually at peace at Jesus' birth. Jerusalem was occupied by the Romans - a false peace without justice.
And, the whole world is not at peace now. Christians are being persecuted and killed. Hungry folks are still hungry. The sins of racism and xenophobia still divide God's people. Greed upends our economic systems. The litany can go on and on if we look beyond our own lives - sometimes even at our own lives - we don't have to go very far to see the effects of evil, greed and sin in the world around us.
That is the same world that Jesus was born into and the same world in which we live today.
We know that evil is real. And, it is not covered up, scrubbed up, or hidden by the soft glow of Christmas candles in our windows.
The "peace on earth, and goodwill" we hope for is not a salve to help us forget the effects of evil and sin in our systems, our communities, and in our own lives. It is a promise that there is something better. Something and someone who shows us who we are meant to be.
Jesus came into our broken world to up-end and remake it, to vanquish sin and death, to make us anew in God's own image.
If we stop for a moment to enjoy the glow of candlelight, the soft tones of carols, or the warmth of the season's good cheer, surely no one will blame us. But, it is not be lulled into a false complacency. Let us carry the cry of peace not as an understanding of what is now, but of what can and will be - of the whole world renewed and restored in the relationship with this child, this infant born in Bethlehem who was, and is, and is to come, this our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Let peace and acts of tolerance and kindness be our herald this Christmastide and always.