Pastor Lara, in partnership with Micro Ministries, has recorded a Christmas message. May this reflections bring you a sense of hope and peace.View video on YouTube
Our reading today comes from the gospel of Luke, chapter 2:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!”
The familiarity of the Christmas story comforts us in a way that few other things do. When we hear it, and imagine what it must have been like, we tend to imagine that all was well in the world, and that the night Jesus was born was a peaceful one.
But the truth is that, in those days, for the majority of people in that region there was no peace at all because that region was occupied by the Roman government.
The Roman emperors and the local rulers were notorious for their tyrannical style of leadership, so for many people it was a time of genuine fear. And they longed for the peace that we imagine they had.
But on that first Christmas night when the angels sang to the shepherds, they brought a message of true peace – a peace that was more than just an absence of conflict. The prophecies of the promise of a savior that God’s people had heard for centuries were fulfilled at last.
In Jesus, God embodied a message of peace that the world needed on that first Christmas night and still needs today because we and every other country in the world still need to find a path to economic and social justice. But this message isn’t only for nations and the big historical picture.
It’s also for people like us. When the load we carry is too heavy. When just getting out of bed in the morning is a major accomplishment. We stop and listen for the angel song.
We stop and listen for words of peace – peace for the people of the world, and peace for our own lives.
But that peace will only come to pass when we echo back the song of God’s messengers. When we are willing to be people who do more than hope for peace, and instead be people who make peace. In other words, it will come to pass when we not only celebrate Christmas, but when we understand that God embodies God’s message of peace in us beyond today.
It comes to life when we do things like seek out a friend we haven’t talked with in a while. When we replace suspicion with trust. When we encourage one another. When we let go of a grudge, keep a promise, forgive an enemy, apologize, seek understanding, express gratitude, welcome a stranger, and speak words of love.
Making peace, building peace, fostering peace…it’s all hard work, and it’s constant work. But as people of God it’s the work we’re called to do, and it’s the work that God does in us.
On the first Christmas, God’s message of peace was embodied in a human baby. It was a message that the world needed then and still needs today. A true peace…more than an absence of conflict. It was a peace and a way of being that’s rooted in God’s love for all people, and that God embodies in us.
Peace on earth, peace to you.