What word is most closely associated with the Christmas? Presents! Let’s try that again, for Christians what word is closely associated with the Christmas? Peace! Yes, this entire season of Advent has been urging us toward ways of peace. The first reading assures us, the one we are waiting for “will be peace.”
Great acts of peace have occurred on Christmas such as the truce of 1914 when soldiers in France and Belgium emerged from trenches to shake hands and wish each other a merry Christmas. The very birth of Jesus occurred during a time of peace in the Roman Empire. This is recounted to us each Christmas Eve when the “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” is chanted at the liturgy; “The 25th day of December … in the 42nd year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus, with the whole world being at peace … Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man.”
In November of this year, our Holy Father expressed his sadness that this Christmas we would be celebrating the essence of peace in a world that is at war. He encouraged each of us to be a peacemaker. Most likely very few of us here, in the Diocese of Green Bay, will be called to sit at a great world summit table to assist in a brokering of world peace. However, each of us is to be a person of peace as we gather around the eucharistic table at our parish. Eucharistic prayer I specifically asks God, “Be pleased to grant her (the church) peace” and others infer our peace and unity with one another. What we are praying for is not the polite gesture we extend through a nod of the head or touch of a hand at the sign of peace; rather we are praying that like Jesus, each of us will be an embodiment of peace.
We who follow Jesus should not consider Christmas peace as limited to Dec. 25th. It should be our way of life. This is a good time to consider what each of us is doing to make of our parish a place of peace. How welcoming and accepting are we? How tolerant of restless little children or uncertain visitors? How do we speak with one another, not just within the proper confines of the liturgy, but at parish social gatherings or committee meetings. Are we a person who is open to negotiation with other parishioners? Can we accept needed changes in our parish in a peace-filled manner? What small personal wars do we carry on within ourselves each day in regard to our pastor, our parish staff or other parishioners in the church at large? Do we give lip service to the prayers for peace offered at our liturgies or are we ready to help the poor, the immigrants, the outcast and the shunned?
In a few days we again will celebrate the one who “shall be peace.” Jesus always treated people with respect, wisdom and love. He brought peace to those around him, and he gives himself to us each day, that we may find our peace within him. This is the kind of peace we all long for. This is the peace that gives us cause to raise our voices with those of the angels so long ago. “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.