Seasonal Reflection Christmas, 2016

Reflecting on Peace

‘Tis the season to be jolly! Or so the song tells us. Certainly, it is a season for many celebratory rituals—decorating, writing cards (for those who still do that!), giving gifts, enjoying special treats to eat and drink, visiting with loved ones, and maybe other personal or family traditions.

But we also know this season can be rather difficult for some: people who are alone, people who are mourning, people who are homeless or hungry, unemployed, sick, or otherwise unable to participate in the festivities, people living with conflict in their own homes or their countries racked by war and other forms of violence. Unfortunately, those realities don’t disappear just because it’s Christmas.

Actually, Christmas might be more accurately described as a season of paradoxes. Even scripture tells us that. First, we have the joyous birth of a new-born baby, and not just any baby, but a Savior! There are angels singing in the sky and magi on the ground bringing precious gifts. But there is also a young couple far from home with no place to stay and no family support. All they can provide their beautiful son is a manger meant for animals. When they present him at the temple, they meet Simeon who predicts that  "this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted". Simeon then forewarns, “You yourself a sword will pierce.” Shortly thereafter, these new parents have to flee to a foreign country to escape their little one’s slaughter, while other baby boys are killed in his stead. We learn quickly that Christmas and Good Friday are not far apart.

So how should we approach Christmas? Certainly not with doom and gloom. Afterall, it is the feast of God become man, participating in our human experiences of joy and sorrow, hope and fear, pain and comfort, defeat and triumph, life and death. How amazing is a God who would share so intimately in our lives! At the same time, as we take time to celebrate, we also need to make time for those who find Christmas difficult. Let’s remember it is in those people that Jesus truly resides. In a special way, it is those people for whom he came. And it is we who must carry on that mission for him here and now.

Years ago, in The Mood of Christmas, Howard Thurman wrote what are, hopefully, these familiar words:

The work of Christmas begins:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks.

The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost, To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Prayer: In This Holy Season

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.

Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wise men. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

Suggested Actions

  • - Howard Thurman presents a list of actions we can take when “the work of Christmas begins.” In whatever way possible, however small, pick one and give it a try. It may involve direct service or it may entail advocacy through letter writing, calling Congress, signing petitions, demonstrating, praying, or some other form of activism.

    - New Year’s Day is The World Day of Peace. The theme of Pope Francis’s World Day of Peace Message for 2017 is Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace. Read it here: Pray over it, and let it inspire you into action.

    - The New Year will also bring with it opportunities to stand up for creation. Stay tuned for actions organized by Green Faith and the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

    - Another opportunity is the Women’s March, both in Washington, D.C. and in New York City on January 21st.

    - Finally, join PCMNY at its annual Peacemaking through the Arts concert, The Cornelius Eady Trio: Jazz, Blues, and Poetry, on Sunday afternoon January 29th. See our events page for more information. Support peace and justice, while being entertained.

Reflection Archives

2016:  Advent  Fall  Summer  Easter  Lent  Ordinary Time   2015: Christmas 
Advent  Ordinary Time   Easter   Lent     2014:    Christmas     


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