The Peace of Christmas
Bishop Solito K. Toquero
We sing and proclaim, “Peace on earth and goodwill to men (and women)” every Christmas time but this is not the experience of many of us. There is unpeace almost everywhere: war in Iraq continues to rage with daily casualties on both sides especially innocent civilians; there is violence between government troops and muslim rebels in Mindanao. In almost every country and place in the world, there is turmoil. People die of hunger, disease and other natural and man-made calamities. Peace in our time seems beyond our reach. Instead of peace in our country, there is political uncertainty, economic woes, and even religious bickerings among liberals and conservatives. Outside our country there is Catholic and Protestant misunderstanding in Ireland, Muslim and Christian violence in other countries, Hindus and Buddhist conflict, etc.. – you name it. Even in our own UMC constituency, there is conflict between anti vs pro-practicing homosexuals in the USA; in the Philippines, there is the issue of pro-affiliated autonomous relationship vs global structure. Can we not have peace? Can we not love each other and still maintain our differences in issues and opinions?
First of all, peace is a gift from God. Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you I do not give to you as the world gives.” This gift of peace given to us by Jesus is the assurance of his abiding presence through the Holy Spirit. Despite the struggles and problems we face in this life, we shall overcome them by the power and presence of God. Paul knows this truth and admonishes the Philippian Christians to “rejoice in the Lord always.” He says further, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Secondly, peace means right relationship - right relationship between individuals, communities and nations. There is no right relationship between individuals, communities and nations if there is no justice and there is no love; then the consequence is unpeace and misunderstanding. This is what poor nations experience with rich nations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Poor nations become poorer and rich nations become richer because the former cannot compete with the latter; there is undue advantage of the rich nations over the poor nations in the value of their goods and products. Right relationship therefore is the practice of justice and righteousness between individuals, communities and nations.
Finally, peace is the outcome of doing God’s purpose for your life in the context of the community - doing your part in the community for the benefit and good of the whole creation. When we live for God’s purpose, then we as humans, with plants, animals and the environment can live together in mutual symbiosis. When we live for the sake of the other- the community, then there is harmony; there is peace. When we obey God’s purpose for our life, then we realize the fulfillment of God’s reign on earth. War between nations shall cease, violence between individuals and communities shall stop and peace shall finally reign.
It is our prayer this Christmas season and beyond that the Prince of Peace shall come and give peace in our hearts, in our communities, in our churches, in our nations and in the world – the whole of creation. “ Come Lord Jesus and reign in us and give us peace.”