My Sisters and Brothers,
Martin Luther King, Jr began his last Christmas sermon before being assassinated with this line,
"This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Everywhere paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night. Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. Paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night."
Those words ring as true now as they did in 1967. From Ukraine to Gaza to Sudan to places that get less attention, our world is sick with war. The future seems beset with ominous possibilities. Our contemporary world has many of us feeling rather bewildered. We are in an anxious and angry age of suspicion, division, and disarray. It is hard to hold onto peace within, when there is so little peace without.
In spite of all, we dare to sing with the angels,
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
We hold to the bold claim that in the coming of Jesus, a new possibility for peace and joy and love was born into the world. And thus, a new possibility of hope that transcends the circumstances of this world and of our own lives.
To be sure, it is all too evident that the peace of the kingdom of God and the New Jerusalem is not yet. But Jesus’ coming has secured the promise that it will. And, in the meantime, a foretaste of that peace can be born within us. Even “in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” Inviting Christ into more and more of our hearts allows for more and more of his love, joy, and peace to enlighten our lives.
The peace within that we know in Christ can lead us to be beacons and agents of peace in the world around us. We can agree with MLK, Jr that the “Christmas hope for peace and goodwill toward all [people] can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian hoper.” But that calls for a disciplined commitment to following Jesus on the path of peace. Because of the tender mercy of our God the Light of Christ shines on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace (cf. Luke 1:78-79). Friends, may we be filled with that Light and be beacons of the love, joy and hope of Jesus, setting our feet on the path of peace that we might be peace makers in these anxious, angry and too often violent times.
In this holy season, may you each know and feel in the deep places of your spirit the abiding peace of Jesus Christ.