Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Advent and Christmas 2004

 

" A child has been born for us the prince of peace" -Is. 9:6

 

What can pastors, in times such as ours, write about the traditional Christmas message of peace on earth and good will towards all people? The scale of the suffering produced by war and conflict in our time is now extremely large. It is impossible, for example, not to be aware of the terrible depth and dimension of the conflict and violence in the Middle East. Media reports seem to dwarf proverbs of peace, reducing them to platitudes. From among the many news stories out of the Middle East, I found the story of Margaret Hassan of Care International to be one of the most disturbing. The aid agency director was taken hostage in Iraq on her way to work It is now believed she was murdered by her extremist captors.

 

The prophet Isaiah is one of the major voices heard in the Christian Church at this time of year. His prophecies of hopeful anticipation fill our liturgies and inform our praise. Handel's "Messiah", for instance, contains a number of beautiful texts from Isaiah. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called: Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" (No.11 Chorus. Is. 9:6). It is something of an irony that Isaiah's prophecies come from an area of the world that is the stage for so much international conflict and mayhem. His words are grounded in the context of the exile in Babylon (present day Iraq) and the return from exile to Jerusalem. Isaiah's audience understood, first hand, both the distress of war and the challenge of rebuilding for peace. Isaiah's message is that the best way to welcome peace is to actively prepare for it.

 

It seems to me that this is exactly what is so powerful about the example of people like Margaret Hassan. The Irish born Hassan gave the past thirty years of her life to the people of Iraq. During that time she was an advocate for them in the international community. An article in the Church Times states: "Mrs. Hassan was an extraordinary woman who dedicated her life to the poor and disadvantaged in Iraq, particularly the children. Through her courage, tenacity and commitment, [she] assisted more than 17 million Iraqis living in the most difficult of circumstances. Everyone who met her was touched by her personality and compassion". The extraordinary life and circumstances of Hassan can be an inspiration for those of us who struggle with more ordinary situations. Lives of hope and peace give new and added credibility to messages of hope and peace. Throughout the seasons of advent and Christmas, Christian will gather to hear messages of hope from our scriptures. Our prayers and praise will celebrate the arrival of one who is called the prince of peace. May we welcome Christ by sharing his peace, in some tangible way, with the broken world around us.

 

The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis Advent and Christmas, 2004