Christmas season should focus on peace
Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2001
Shops are selling out of red-white-and-blue ornaments. American flags fly alongside manger scenes. The patriotic fervor in the country has made its mark on the Christmas season.
This is not the first Christmas Americans have celebrated during a period of war. The difference this time is that the ones who died were not soldiers. And their graves were not on a field of battle.
The ones who died were not prepared to fight back. And, although innocent, they were ambushed without mercy.
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The mixture of patriotism with the birth of the Prince of Peace has its barbed edges as many clergymen try this Christmas season to soothe angry, hurting congregants while also plying hearts full of the hope embodied in the small babe born in the manger some 2,000 or so years ago.
As people flock to churches to hear Christmas messages today and Monday, Christmas Eve, they may be the easiest group to inspire in many years. Several ministers contacted this week for a story about their Christmas sermon topics, spoke of the misconception held by many people that the world changed after the September attack on America. Yes, the attack was different from anything the country had experienced in its history. But the clergymen pointed out that evil ran rampant in the world before that date even as it still surrounds us now. History, including the ancient history found in the Old Testament of the Bible, reveals conflicts between good and evil going back into the earliest recorded stories of mankind.
Events described in the New Testament further describe the world into which Jesus was born as a dangerous one. His coming, the clergy said, gave the world a hope it had not known before – a way of escape, a promise of a kingdom where there would be peace.
Still in His life and His death, Jesus Christ knew violence. He warned his disciples that their lives would not be easy as they went out into the world to spread the Gospel. He died a violent death at the hands of terrible enemies, for whom He prayed, &uot;Father, forgive them.&uot;
The Rev. Alfred Camp at St. Mary Basilica addressed the conflict many people feel today. &uot;Using airplanes as weapons is unthinkable,&uot; he said. &uot;But that’s the sort of thing Jesus came to save us from. He does not take away all evil but shows us how to deal with it.&uot;
Peace will come to the world as each individual heart is filled with it, Camp said. &uot;You don’t have peace if you’re at odds with even one person,&uot; he said.
And Jesus teaches praying not only for friends but also for enemies. That’s important to hold firm in our hearts, Camp said.
The Christmas season offers many lovely images, some that inspire a peaceful feeling – lights and decorated trees, wreaths on the doors of beautiful churches and surprise in the eyes of loved ones, for example.
Perhaps the image to top with the largest red bow, however, is the one of firemen and policemen from New York City a few days ago distributing gifts to the children of Afghanistan – those same firemen and policemen whose sacrifice and pain have been awesome since the Sept. 11 attack that was supported by many of those children’s countrymen.
Those firemen and policemen have figured out Christmas this year. They followed a star. And they found the peace.
Joan Gandy is special projects director of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.