Written by Gregg Brekke
This is a blessed time, the days between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, these "twelve days of Christmas". When I was a local pastor and mother of young children, December 26 was always my favorite day of the season because it was so quiet and peaceful.
The list of "to do items" at home and church had been completed (or would have to wait another year!) The children had new toys or books to keep them busy for a while. The lights were still on the tree and music in the air. Leftovers in the refrigerator would provide simple meals for several days. Traditionally there was no sermon to prepare for the Sunday after Christmas when we would share songs and stories instead. There were no church business meetings.
Peace, blessed peace.
Peace is what we pray and wish for others too – peace for people in our families and communities who are struggling with one hardship or the other, and peace for people in places of violence and conflict around the world.
And this week, when we continue to sing of angels proclaiming "peace on earth and goodwill to all" and of three kings following that "star of wonder, star of night," we know that all people do not live in peace. Especially today in the land where Jesus was born and in the places that the Magi traveled through on their journey to present him with gifts and homage, peace is not something very easy to experience.
We in the church have received words of Christmas blessings from various church partners in Israel and Palestine. Jean Zaru, head of the Friends Meeting in occupied Ramallah on the West Bank, sent this Christmas blessing: "May we all continue to be channels of peace, justice, liberation, compassion and hope. We are not called to the impossibility of perfection, but to the possibility of compassion. Compassion is the meaning of life, the basis of our universal human ethic."
Leaders of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem write, "Blood has run through the streets of Jerusalem in times past and politically inspired violence continues in many of the neighborhoods of Jerusalem even now." Yet, they ask, "Is it not possible to ask people to set aside old agendas? Is it possible that religious and political leaders can walk together 'in the light of the Lord'? Is it possible for old enemies to no longer 'learn war' anymore? Christians in the Land of the Holy One continue to believe, with all evidence to the contrary, that all things are possible for those who love the Lord because if peace is possible here in Jerusalem, peace is possible for everyone."
A message from the Catholic Church this month declares that the church "has committed itself ... to support all those initiatives and activities that could sensitize every man and woman of good will to become not only heralds, but also agents of peace."
"Not only heralds but also agents of peace." We in the United Church of Christ are called not only to wish for peace for others or simply to bask in the peace of our own quiet day after the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Rather, we are called to work for lasting peace with justice and for the betterment of all the people impacted by the conflict in the Holy Land.
We are invited right now to send a message to President Obama asking him and his administration to redouble their efforts to bring the leaders of Israel and Palestine to the bargaining table once again. Just as the message which the angels proclaimed so many years ago has spread to people and churches around the globe, a just peace agreement in the Holy Land soon could cause an amazing ripple effect around the world for global peace.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us.
- A list of UCC church partners, personnel, and advocacy efforts in the Middle East can be found at <globalministries.org/mee/>.
- To send a message to the President, please visit <globalministries.org/news/mee/pdfs/CampaignChristmasCardGM.pdf>.
The Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte is the UCC's executive minister for Wider Church Ministries and co-executive minister for Global Ministries. She is also a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.