CHURCH CORNER: Find peace that fills your heart

Just a few days until Christmas. My mind dreams of snow glistening on a crystal-clear night with the stars shining brightly. I can’t help but hear Nat King Cole singing, “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining” as my mind takes me to that night long ago when our world changed forever. Yet, so many things remain unchanged.

A courageous young woman, Mary, tells the angel Gabriel, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She found herself pregnant by the Holy Spirit and facing what could have been a death sentence at the time for being betrothed, but not yet married, and with child.

Potentially a single mom in a harsh world, probably not more than 14 or 15 years old, her life would have been pretty bleak. We need not look far from our doors to find single moms, unmarried young women with a child, facing their own world full of hardships.

For many people, me included, this story strikes pretty close to home. And through the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we are called in faith to love the modern Marys of this world. To reach out to them with the good news that God loves them and so do we.

The Christmas story in Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:1-20) was a radical story when it was first written, and it still is today. A man and woman, with no place to stay, homeless, no place to welcome them, seek shelter in a barn on a cold night. A baby is born into poverty, a feeding trough for a crib. The prospects of life were pretty bleak. That scenario is still played out today. And God calls us to love and care for the homeless, hungry and poor, just as God does.

The first hearers of the good news were shepherds, people that were despised and considered so untrustworthy that they couldn’t even testify in court. They were treated with contempt by society. Yet, in an amazing roll reversal, God chooses them to spread the good news. Who are the modern shepherds of our towns, people marginalized and treated with contempt? Do we see them and hear them? Do we care for them?

I can’t hear the Christmas story without hearing the angels singing “Glooooooooooria, in excelsis Deo,” Angels We Have Heard on High, a beautiful Christmas carol that many will sing this Christmas Eve. Hark, the Herald Angels singing the good news. Good news that a dark world really needed to hear 2,000 years ago and really needs to hear today. Who will be the “Herald Angels” today, telling the world of God’s amazing love and grace?

The angels proclaimed something pretty radical, a message of “on earth, peace among those whom he favors.” The King James Version tells of “On earth, peace, goodwill toward men.” That was pretty radical proclamation in a world and place where war, power and oppression left little room for peace.

So often peace is understood as an outward peace, between people or countries. What about an inward peace, peace between you and God? Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that can never be found in this world. Peace that came as a gift given for all people.

This Christmas I pray that each of you might find that peace and that peace will fill your hearts with the warm glow of the Christmas story 2,000 years ago, and this week, right here in our towns, neighborhoods, churches, and homes.

Merry Christmas!

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