It was the Sunday before Christmas and a precocious four-year-old boy, attending Sunday school class, told his teacher, “There are some poor kids next to us who have no daddy, no toys and no aunt Jane.” The young Sunday school teacher felt that she had identified a teachable moment. She seized the opportunity and asked the boy, “Wouldn’t you like to give them something?” “Yes” he answered. “I’d like to give them aunt Jane!”
Let me give you some background. In this case, aunt Jane was viewed by the family as a first cousin to Sadam Hussein. When she came every Christmas she would hold the family hostage (i.e., better buy her a gift above a certain dollar amount, or else…). Aunt Jane possessed an insufferable attitude and was just an all-around difficult person to deal with. Hey, do you have and “aunt Jane” type of person in your life? That is, these people may sing the angel’s song but have never been confused for an angel. Sometimes we find them at our jobs, our homes, our churches or even… in our mirror.
In the season that sings about the hope of peace, the “aunt Jane’” types only hint at the remote possibility of peace, of the personal kind. These are the “difficult people” we encounter in life. They are not Ambassadors of Peace. Are you an Ambassador of Peace? Am I?
The Christmas account, as found in the Bible, narrates the prophesied birth of a special child. The biblical passages highlight the appearance of angelic ambassadors announcing the child’s birth and the dawning of a new era: “…and on earth- peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Well, the greatest message of Christmas is still the promise of peace! Few other words in the human language fill the heart with greater desire for total, complete, lasting and everlasting tranquility than the word “peace.” At the time of this special child’s birth there existed tyranny, oppression, and human indignity. It was a violent world where children were abused and domestic violence was known to occur. But, have times really changed? The need for peace today is no less compelling. To be sure, we moderns have developed some rather ingenious capabilities for abusing, maiming and killing each other.
As we see violence in our world we are justified in questioning the new era of world peace that “the Christ child” would usher in. Well, the key to solving the problem is one of interpretation and application. Here’s my perspective:
I would love to superimpose God’s peace plan on the Middle East, the villages and city streets of Afghanistan and in the life of tyrants. I would like to wave the magic wand and make it happen. However, I know that I cannot. But, I can do something about the “aunt Jane” personality in me. You can do something about the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality in you. God’s peace plan must first be intensely personal before it can be outwardly contagious. God’s peace plan must reign in each person’s life individually, first.
“And on earth – peace to men on whom his favor rest.” You know, I like the sound of that. It sounds nice. It sounds noble. It sounds like something I’d like to have but there is a catch. You see, this kind of peace is supernatural, otherworldly and downright godly. Therefore, “peace to men” can only be the by-product of a “relationship” with God. This inner peace is not dependent on an attitude adjustment, electroshock therapy or esoteric mind control techniques. This “peace to men” is not even the result of good intentions. Rather, this inner, abiding, personal, supernatural peace can only be derived through a surrender of the inner self to the power of God to transform us. Attitude change and good intentions become the by-products of personal transformation.
Before I can live peaceably with anyone I must first be at peace with myself. Peace on earth begins with me as I make peace with God. The challenge of Christmas is making peace of the personal kind…, which begins as we, individually, make peace with God. PEACE!
– (© all rights reserved) Chaplain Joe Molina CDR, UMSC / Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets