Christmas peace: A gift for Jesus and the world Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

A few years ago playwright/director Peter Rothstein created a theatrical concert and musical radio drama entitled, All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. This theatrical concert dramatizes a remarkable incident of peace that happened during an unplanned truce during World War I, which some called the war to end all wars.

A Christmas truce

On Christmas Eve, at certain places along the front, German and British soldiers spontaneously sang Christmas carols. On Christmas day unarmed enemy soldiers met in no man’s land, and exchanged gifts of tobacco, rum, chocolate, and even family photographs. In one section they buried each other’s dead and played soccer.

In some areas the truce continued the next day. But the high command of both armies quickly ordered that further “informal misunderstandings” with the enemy would be severely punished. Peace ended and the bloody war resumed for another four years.

The estimated number of casualties in World War I exceeded those of any other war before World War II. But this Christmas truce fulfilled briefly Jesus’ dream to bring peace on earth and good will to all. It showed us the deep longing of human hearts for peace.

War is not the will of God

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. In Luke 2:11-14 the angel says, “For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you. You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace on whom his favor rests.’”

The prophets Isaiah and Micah reveal that God’s will is not for war, but peace. Old Testament prophets repeatedly attacked the roots of violence in sins of greed, hatred, envy, and self-righteousness.

Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of a messiah of peace. He redeemed us from our sins and taught us how to live in peace as a family. He taught us to respond to violence by turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and forgiving enemies. In Matthew 26:52, Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword for violence begets more violence.

We cannot achieve peace alone

The Church led by the pope and bishops continues Christ’s work for peace. In no. 168 of the encyclical Pacem in Terris Blessed Pope John XXIII wrote, “So magnificent is this aim (for peace) that human resources alone, even though inspired by the most praiseworthy good will, cannot hope to achieve it. God must come to man’s aid with his heavenly assistance if human society is to bear the closest possible resemblance to the kingdom of God.”

And God will, if we ask. God began the process of peace by sending us his son.

In his 2007 World Day of Peace Message, Pope Benedict XVI stated that peace is not only a divine “gift,” but also a human “task”.

In his 2006 Christmas homily, Pope Benedict XVI urged the world to love children more and wished peace for our world. He stressed that we must protect children who are abused, forced to beg, and are unloved.

At the age of 93, Pablo, the great cellist wrote, “We live in an age in which men have accomplished magnificent things and made marvelous advances. Yet like barbarians we fear our neighbors on earth. We arm against them and they arm against us. This must be halted if we are to survive. A brotherhood among all men must be recognized if life is to remain.”

At age 84, Pablo promoted peace and brotherhood by performing his oratorio “The Manger” all over the world. He explained, “My contribution to peace may be small. But at least I will have given all I can to an ideal I hold sacred.”

Reject hatred for sake of others

Peace begins when we respect each other as uniquely created in God’s image. Once we lose respect for others, and treat them as objects, the door to violence opens.

Reverence for life diminishes when we accept any form of violence as commonplace. To achieve peace, we must reject hatreds that lead to personal conflicts and bigger wars. We must also work to eliminate poverty, injustice, and deprivation of human rights that prepare hearts for war.

Christ embraced a human nature so he could teach us how to live as families of peace. In peaceful families we learn to treat each other with reverence, love, and forgiveness. We respond to difficult situations in non-violent, peaceful ways.

Christ was born to bring peace and good will to all. Christmas invites us to disarm our hearts of sinful violence and make room for Jesus to fill them with peace.

Then we do our part to help Christ’s dream of peace come true and enjoy a peaceful Christmas and New Year in our homes, in our community and our world. This is one of the best presents we can offer Jesus and the world.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.