At Christmas, a strong desire for a real and present peace
In his Christmas message to the wider Church, United Church of Christ General Minister and President John C. Dorhauer urges a renewed commitment to God’s peace.
Maybe it’s just I, but of late there is extant an overwhelming sense of not being able to process the feelings that surface after reports of random violence.
I write this brief Christmas reflection just days after a series of brutal mass shootings that come at us so quickly I can’t fully process them emotionally. I learned last night that two former members of this staff, whom I know and care about and worked with, had family members murdered over the weekend. A pastor wrote to me yesterday to share that the chair of her church’s diaconate asked her to remove the banner that hung on the altar that had words for peace written in various languages – a very familiar banner used by many of our churches the first week of Advent.
All of this erodes my confidence not so much in the presence of peace in our world – something my heart longs for – as for the desire for that peace to be real and present. It is as if we have accepted that violence will always be with us and our call as members of the body of Christ to instill a lasting and just peace is either futile or not worth the effort.
As Christmas nears, I find a strong desire within me to engage in the unfolding of peace. I find that to be both relevant and urgent. Bombs cannot fall nor bullets fly and we just sit by in stagnant complacency. Neither the enormity of the undertaking nor the desensitizing of our emotions in response to any of this should result in the Church failing to hear the call from our Prince of Peace to be, as Francis wrote, “instruments of God’s peace.”
Hear again words of an ancient and beloved Carol:
"It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the Earth to touch their harps of gold: 'Peace on Earth, good will to all, from heaven's all gracious King.' The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing."
Not often sung is this verse from that song, which speaks of the times we are living in and through, reminding us of our call to be agents of peace in a war-torn and often violent world:
"Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong; And we, at war with all, hear not the tidings which they bring; O hush the noise, O Ye of strife, and hear the angels sing."
The angels announced that Jesus would come with peace. May we, his disciples, renew the song of the angels: “Peace on the earth, good will to all.”
Let this Christmas be the season in which we renew our commitment to be instruments of God’s peace on Earth.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer General Minister and President United Church of Christ
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