by Gwynne Watkins
The Christmas season often doesn’t feel like a time of peace. To-do lists a mile long reminding us that there are cookies to be baked, cards to be sent, gifts to purchase, preparations for guests to be made, along with the responsibilities of everyday life often make the season more frantic than peaceful. Each year, I look forward to Christmas Eve service. By the time the service starts, preparations are over and the things not done are forgotten or seem unimportant as we celebrate the arrival of the newborn King Jesus. It often is the first chance I get to breathe and experience a sense of that Christmas peace.
This year, I was struck by the words of what is sometimes the second or third verse of “O Holy Night” and the words they tell us about Jesus:
“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!”
The church I attended growing up always closes the Christmas Eve service with candlelight and singing several carols. I spent many years either sitting in the balcony (or in the choir loft when I was older) watching as the candlelight spread from one candle to another as the soft, warm light filled the sanctuary. One candle gives off a pretty warm glow, but when everyone has a candle lit and raised, the bright light and beauty of the effect is breathtaking.
Peace can be a lot like those candles during Christmas Eve service. I can sit and enjoy the sense of peace the Christmas season brings for me, but that is a lot like one candle burning by itself. The “gospel of peace” that “O Holy Night” speaks of is bigger that that. It speaks of the good news of the the freedom and equality that are a part of His kingdom as He breaks chains, ends oppression, and makes us all brothers and sisters. If all of the people of the Church actively work toward loving one another and showing these peaceful realities of God’s kingdom to the world we live in, His peace breaks forth into the darkness of this world with a brightness and beauty that shines like a sanctuary completely filled with candlelight.
This Christmas and throughout the year may we together find ways to share the good news of and actively work toward the peace that Jesus brings!