Peace to all

12/16/2008

“Peace on earth, good will to all. . .” —  Luke 2:14

The congregations' leaders expressed a desire to focus their mission and ministry through the development of a mission statement. They stated two hopes:

• Less conflict and more harmony in their congregation
• Outreach to people beyond the homogeneous group now participating.

We decided to start at the beginning and turned to the Christmas story. As we read it together, a wise leader exclaimed, “This is it! The song of the angels!”

There it was: Peace to all. Peace – less conflict, more harmony. All– extending the welcome beyond those now present.

Their mission statement is clear and compelling. It can fit on a button or a bumper sticker or a pencil, yet it is deep and rich, full of meaning, stretching toward the future.

In self-assessment by congregations in Mississippi, the need for help in navigating conflict has been clearly identified. It is not surprising: we humans have opinions on everything from global warming to the color of the carpet.  

Christmas gifts us with a great truth: Spiritual unity is a gift of God. e open ourselves to receive the gift.

The great religious traditions flowing from Abraham and Sarah – Judiasm, Islam and Christianity – have at their heart embrace of peace. In Hebrew, it is called shalom. In Arabic, it is called salaam. In English, it is called peace. In Spanish, it is called paz.

In the mystery and miracle of Christmas, God shows us fullness of life. God loves, God, gives, God risks. In the beautiful vulnerability of Christ Child, we see peace.   

The Child of Bethlehem comes to us. The lion and lamb lie down together. Swords are transformed into plowshares. The spiritual life in Christ is a gift, not a battle.

In the light of Christmas, we see the peaceful possibility, God’s intent for the world. Where we might retaliate, we forgive. Where we might overpower, we refrain from force. Where we might withhold, we extend ourselves. Where we might judge, we show mercy. Where we might engage in violence, we lay down our weapons.

Woody Allen quipped that they may lie down together but the lion will sleep better. It is true: We are tempted to trust our weapons and alarm systems, our fences and gates.

Christmas calls us out and up and on. Angels sing, shepherds leave their fields to worship, astrologers follow the star with gifts for the Holy Child. In our loving God, there is welcome and safety and peace. Christmas overwhelms our defenses and our striving.

In the Christ Child is the peace, the salaam, the shalom, the paz, of which the angels sing.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise, Hail the triumph of the skies.
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”