and Christmas 2004
A child has been born for us … the prince of peace" -Is. 9:6
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.
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.
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.
Rev. Canon Rod Gillis Advent and Christmas, 2004