“Peace on Earth” is a traditional Christmas message, first delivered by the angels to shepherds on the morning Christ was born. This week’s clergy discuss how peace can be achieved — both in ourselves and in the world around us.
The Rev. David Anglin
Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Amityville
Christmas doesn’t always bring outward peace. Some ferocious battles — like the battle of Trenton in the Revolutionary War, or the Battle of the Bulge in World War II — have been fought around Christmastime. Sadly, the Christmas season is also often a time when persecution intensifies in nations that are hostile to the Christian faith. But the “peace on Earth” that the angels speak of is not an earthly, political peace. It’s the peace that happens between humans and God when our sins are forgiven. Christ was born, and died, and rose again to give that peace. As sinners, we were God’s enemies. But he came among us in Christ, he was born as a little child, to turn us from enemies to friends. Because the peace of Christmas is not an earthly peace, it can be known in times of turbulence and warfare. I once knew a World War II veteran who served at the Battle of the Bulge. His most vivid Christmas memory was of standing guard in a foxhole on Christmas Eve . . . hearing a fellow soldier play “Silent Night” on the harmonica. He was in the midst of one of the greatest battles of all time — but in that moment, Christmas peace came upon him. The peace of Christmas does not abolish war, but breaks down the barriers that divide us from God.
Rev. Wendy C. Modeste
Pastor, United Methodist Church of Bay Shore
Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is one of my favorite Christmas movies that I never get tired of watching during this time of the year. It’s Christmas Eve and George Bailey (James Stewart) is overwhelmed, contemplating suicide. He feels that his whole life has been a mistake and it would be better for him to end it all. What’s so wonderful about life, and being broke, no money in the coffer, especially on Christmas Eve? Isn’t that how so many people feel during this season — depressed, lonely, and at the end of their rope? Christmas is a time of hope, peace, joy, love and good will toward others. When George was in trouble and thought that he was alone in his misery, the whole town came to his rescue, sending up prayers on his behalf: “Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend Mr. Bailey.” “Please, God. Something’s the matter with Daddy.” “He never thinks about himself, God; that’s why he’s in trouble.” “Please bring Daddy back.” That’s the spirit of Christmas, reaching beyond ourselves and helping those in need. The peace of Christmas comes from within our hearts. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that God reigns in our situations and has total control that brings us peace, regardless of what we are experiencing in the moment. When the town of Bedford Falls came together to help their friend and neighbor, George Bailey, they allowed George to experience the peace of Christmas — the birth of the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us, the prince of peace.
The Rev. JoAnn Barrett
Gathering of Light Interspiritual Fellowship, Melville
Christmas is not a time of peace unless you participate in it. Without bringing the true meaning of Christmas into the season, this time of year is chaos. The interpretation of Christmas is varied among the vast array of Christian sects; however the one message that rings out loud and clear is to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Christ is not an exclusive individual. Christ is a universal love made manifest by a birth. The story of Christmas tells us that Christ is a simple, innocent birth to a weary Jewish family at a time of oppression. Births are beginnings. Births are full of promise, while entering in tremendous change. The story reminds us that regular people, such as the shepherds, are called to not fear this change and leave the everyday stuff of life and open their hearts to wonderment and possibility. The story reminds us that a new star appeared in the dark. Wise men left their studies and followed their hearts to the star. Stars are lights in darkness, further promise of illumination and transformation. One might say that “Keeping Christ in Christmas” is allowing that star, a new light to be born in us. Think of the peace that comes with a light being turned on in a dark room full of obstacles. This Christ light is a magnified version of that peace. It is a spirit of renewal that calls us back to the simpler things in life. But mostly, it calls us back to a connection that uplifts and inspires and lies in the simplest place ever; our own hearts. Let the light of Christ in and find the hope and peace that this season brings.