In his Christmas Message, United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer urges the wider church to use the power of love to overcome the divisions that exist in our world.
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace and glad tidings to all."
So said the angel to the shepherds, asking them to go to Bethlehem and find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Of all the lines from the Christmas narrative, I think this is my favorite. The coming of the Christ-child was a gift from the heavens meant to usher in the reign of God's peace. This is the gift we have all longed for – a return to God's vision of Shalom. Let us beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks. Let us no longer learn the ways of war. Let us see the lion and the lamb together. Let there be no more warring between nations on the mountain of the Lord.
If Christ came for anything, it was for this: the peace that passes understanding. His entire life was a rehearsal for us to examine what walking a pathway dedicated to love of neighbor looked like. It looked like a turning of the cheek, the walk of a second mile, the unfathomable love of neighbor, the kindness from and to the stranger best exemplified by the Samaritan on the road.
It didn't look like two Christians unwilling to talk to each other again because of who they voted for in the last election.
It didn't look like Christians on the left thinking Christians on the right just don't understand the real Jesus; and Christians on the right thinking Christians on the left are heretical and hypocritical humanists.
Divisions are intensifying.
Relationships are being shaped and defined based on political points of view.
All that should make for a very merry Christmas when the family gathers this year.
But, like my family, which agreed to put aside personal points of view — we need to remember that love comes first. Though we have spent more than five decades together living and fighting with each other — we know what love feels like.
I invite us all to remember what love looks and feels and acts like. Support for righteous causes matter, but they ought not come at the sacrifice of family, church, and fellowship.
As the United Church of Christ, we come from differing backgrounds, but we are committed as one church to living into the hope brought into the world with Jesus. Working for peace, building a just world for all of God's people.
Christmas has often been a time to set aside differences and remind us all about the power of love to overcome them.
May it be so again this year.