Peace on Earth, goodwill to all

Dec. 24, 2013 @ 02:57 PM

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

“He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

“But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ [a] the Lord.”

Those moving lines, from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, frame what many call the “reason for the season” we celebrate today.

This is, for millions of Christians, one of the year’s most sacred days, sharing with Easter and its story of Christ’s death and resurrection the cornerstone of their faith.

It is easy to forget, amid the manic bustle of round-the-clock shopping that only ended late Tuesday, the reason we celebrate this day.

But this morning, as an annual calm settles across our landscape, as families awake amid a world strangely stilled and highways filled not with commuters or shoppers but relatives gathering for this special day, it is time to pause and reflect.

Whether the story in Luke is the cornerstone of your faith, perhaps the central message of this day can prevail across faiths and cultures.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all, the carols reminded us endlessly in the malls and on the radio, in our homes and in our pews. That message should be more than a Christmas refrain – it should be a plea, a hope, for the best instincts of humankind to prevail over the worst.

To be sure, the world this day is filled with strife, suffering and turmoil. For yet another holiday, United States troops will muse about being home for Christmas, only in their dreams, as they face danger in hostile fire in Afghanistan or simply stand guard in posts around the world.

In Syria, in South Sudan, in Ukraine, in Libya – in the economically challenged neighborhoods of our own cities – peace may seem an ephemeral hope.

But all around are signs of hope and joy – the caring folks who rallied to ensure toys for the children in McDougald Terrace, those who shared their Christmas through the Volunteer Center, who brought joy to the children who came to the Durham Rescue Mission, those who will serve a meal to those in need at Urban Ministries, those whose unheralded acts of kindness will ensure a measure of celebration for those wanting today.

There are indeed countless reasons to celebrate this special morning. To all, we simply say, we wish you a Merry Christmas.