A message from Reverand David Smith.
On Christmas Eve, 1914, the first World War had been raging for 5 months and on the western front, British and German forces were separated only by a mud-caked no-man’s land littered with fallen comrades. But that night British soldiers heard a faint sound, and as they listened, although the words in German were unfamiliar, the tune of ‘Silent night’ was one they knew well. When the German soldiers finished singing, the British forces cheered before responding in English; ‘Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm all is bright…’. The singing continued as one side, then the other, exchanged not gunfire but Christmas carols. The next morning, something even more remarkable took place. Soldiers who had been killing each other by the tens of thousands, put down their rifles, climbed out of muddy trenches and spent Christmas Day mingling. Gifts of food, tobacco and alcohol were exchanged, games of football played and for a few hours, there was peace amidst the horrors of war.
The birth of Jesus is also a story of peace breaking into a troubled world one silent night. The Prophet Isaiah had said of this baby; ‘He would be called the Prince of Peace and the Angels announcing the birth of Jesus sang of peace on earth.’ And two millennia later, the Christian message is that even in the midst of our war against Covid, deep peace can still be found in Jesus the Christ.
As for the truce those soldiers experienced 107 years ago, it wasn’t to last and the fighting resumed. As for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, it is not just for an hour or two, as good as that can sometimes be. Sure, it doesn’t mean that life is all beer and skittles, but that peace ‘can’ be found where there is no peace.
The Hebrews have the word ‘shalom’ which alludes not just to an absence of conflict, but to the idea of comprehensive well-being in every direction and relationship.
As for peace with God, there are those who feel alienated from God, or harbour hostility towards God or perhaps complete indifference, as if God were somehow non-existent.
And living in a community, peace with others can sometimes be tricky. In this respect, perhaps shalom is best achieved when we’re able to celebrate and affirm diversity and difference and when we’re more interested in assuming our responsibilities than asserting our rights.
As for our relationship with ourselves, Jesus once said it’s difficult to love others if we can’t first love ourselves, if we can’t be comfortable and at peace in our own skin.
And in these days of climate change, what about our relationship with Creation?
Shalom, it is comprehensive well-being in every direction and every relationship: Peace with God, peace with others, peace within, peace with our environment.
And so, my prayer this festive season is that you will experience some deep peace in your lives, wherever you need it most. For all of us there can be relational issues, family machinations. For those of you who have found the last few months particularly difficult may the deep peace of Christ be with you. For those of you worried about health issues, financial issues Covid issues, other issues, yours, or those of loved ones, may you too know some peace, peace where there is no peace.
And to you all, deep peace of Aotearoa’s sand and sea and sky to you, deep peace of your colleagues and friends and whanau’s aroha to you, and deep, deep, deep peace of the Son of peace to you.
Fides Servanda Est
Reverend David Smith