As we approach the end of 2014, most media outlets will have some sort of program celebrating the best, the worst and the strangest events of the year. This review of the year will more than likely be fairly depressing, as the year 2014 has brought to the world countless stories of violence, death and destruction. In reviewing the major news stories from the year, themes that rise to the top are things like: violence in much of the Middle East, numerous attacks on schools, workplaces and public buildings throughout the world. This year also featured numerous videotaped executions of journalists and hostages. On top of this, numerous children in Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria among other nations were kidnapped/disappeared over the course of the year. This is not to mention the major stories of violence in the United States; too many murders in the streets, numerous death row executions and countless lives that have been ended through abortion.
In a world so consumed with violence, it is wonderful that we have a season of preparation like Advent for the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel from the Mass during the Night, the last four verses (Luke 2: 10-14) feature the angels' message to the shepherds:
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 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 to those on whom his favor rests.”
This is both a challenge to the hearer as well as a message of hope. This message challenges us to give up the skepticism, bitterness and resentment that we have developed this past year. It asks us if we are truly willing to forgive those who have hurt us this past year. Can we forgive our society, friends, family and enemies for how they have hurt us? This is a noteworthy challenge, but we have the comfort of knowing that our Prince of Peace will help us in this task.
The angels' message is one of hope. There is goodness in this world, for our loving Creator made it, and his Son, the Prince of Peace was born in to it, and lived like us, as a human upon it. This Prince of Peace came into the world as a small, vulnerable child and left it through the excruciating, humiliation of a crucifixion in which he forgave those who wronged him. Through his birth, life, death and resurrection, we have been assured of a better life.
While the corrupted world we live in may not provide us with the peace we desire, we have solace in knowing that in Heaven, we will experience an everlasting peace.
To end this reflection on a positive note, I encourage you all to view this British advertisement that recalls the Christmas Day truce that occurred 100 years ago during WWI. Both British and German troops ceased fighting for one day, in order to celebrate the birth of Christ. The soldiers in the trenches met in the middle of “no man's land” to exchange simple gifts, sing carols and to play soccer.”
May peace reign in our hearts, minds and our world. Merry Christmas!