When I began to write this article on the theme of 'Christmas and peace', I was shocked to see the two terrific incidents that took place in Ankara, Turkey, where the Russian ambassador was killed by a policeman; and in Berlin, Germany, where, 12 people were killed and many were injured in a Christmas market with a truck.
It seems that the news of the war, terrorism, killing the innocent people become very common in our media. We have also seen the brutality of the Myanmar army to the Rohingya people, the ceaseless shedding of the blood in the Middle East and many parts of the world. Everyday many children, women and common people die because of the violence and cruelty of some conscienceless persons.
The peace is very urgent for the world. The earth cries for the security and serenity. In the midst of this situation we are celebrating the nativity of Jesus Christ, which is commonly known as Christmas. The birth of the Jesus Christ is one of the most important events in the world history as well as in the biblical tradition. It brought a new shift in the time frame of the world history; i.e. BC to AD. On the other hand, it fulfilled the words of the Old Testament which God promised through the different prophets.
According to the Holy Bible, when man fell into sin there was no peace between man and God and no peace among men (cf. Genesis. 3:7); violence took place between the two brothers Cain and Abel (cf. Genesis 4:8-9). But God did not abandon the mankind rather He always kept them under his loving protection.
As a result later God himself promised through the prophet Isaiah that he would send the Messiah who would be known as the prince of peace and make a bridge between God and men; and among men: "For a child has been born for us a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6).
We find the fulfillment of this prophecy when this nonviolent child Jesus was born two thousand years ago into abject poverty in a manger, the story goes that angels appeared in the sky to impoverished shepherds singing, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors" (Luke 2:14). The angels, who are the massagers of God, introduced the prince of peace to the world through this hymn.
At the beginning of his mission, Jesus also proclaims the purpose of his coming on earth which assures that he will bring peace and justice to the human society: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:29).
The primary and fundamental message of Jesus' three years public ministry was 'Love'. He summarized all his teaching with these two aspects: love of God and love of men (cf. Luke 10:27-28). Even He taught his disciples to love their enemies and to pray for those who would persecute them (cf. Matthew 5:44).
God loved the world and gave his beloved one so that the world can be saved from all the evils and He may bring the peace and justice on earth (cf. John 3:16-21). God's beloved one came to this world and loved the humankind. In fact, the virtue 'love' is the basis of all other human values. It connects peace, justice, charity, sympathy, generosity, human dignity, sharing and sacrifice etc.
It is important to note that all these values have been manifested in the whole life of Jesus. Out of love, Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, established the human dignity of the oppressed and the women, showed sympathy to the poor and needy, and became one of the human beings in every aspect except sin (cf. Hebrew 4:15). Everywhere he proclaimed the words of peace and social justice.
At the end of his life, we also find his nonviolence character very vividly. He was unjustly arrested, trialed unfairly and sentenced to death without any proper reason or crime. Still he did not hold the sword against his enemies, rather he rebuked his disciples when one of them struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear with a sword. As Jesus said, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 27:52). At the very moment of the terrible suffering on the cross before his death, Jesus expressed the wonderful message for the peace and nonviolence:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Even after his resurrection when he appeared to his disciples, he greeted them with this message: "peace be with you" (Luke 24:36). If the entire life of Jesus is analyzed thoroughly, we can bring a concrete conclusion that He is really the prince of the peace on earth that the prophet Isaiah prophesied almost eight hundred years ago of his birth.
Under this background it can be stated that the primary invocation of the Christmas is peace. Jesus was born as the prince of peace and he worked to establish the peace on earth. As saint Paul says, "For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us" (Ephesians 2:14).
When we remember and celebrate His birthday, it strongly invites us to reclaim our common imagination for peace, to herald a new future of peace, and so to resist the old paradigm of global war-making. It is to say that one who follows the peacemaking Jesus, he also becomes a peacemaker. If any follower of Jesus supports the unjust warfare or violence and killing, he becomes a complete betrayal of the nonviolent Jesus. He mocks the life of Jesus Christ, Christmas and the God of peace.
To be an authentic follower of Christ is to be a practitioner of creative nonviolence. The utmost call on the occasion of the birthday of the prince of peace is to renounce violence, join the global peace movement, work for disarmament and make peace with everyone. The vision of peace was announced by the nonviolent Jesus as God's "reign of peace,". It upholds an earth without borders, one human family where everybody welcomes everybody as a beloved sister or brother as well as nourishes the nature. The lover of peace should not destroy the balance of the environment of the world.
Peace is the most desirable and enviable elements for the human being. Everyone wants peace in the personal life, in the family and society as well as in the whole universe. The purpose of the most of the human activities is to have peace and happiness in life. Jesus Christ, as the prince of peace also brought the same peace for the world. If the humanity follows his footstep and teaching, definitely there will be peace in everywhere.
The Christmas also gives the same message of the peace to the world. It is a beautiful opportunity for the followers of Jesus Christ as well as all the lover of peace to evaluate their personal life and to become a nonviolent person so that the world may end war, violence and killing, and to build a stronger and fraternal humanity where there will be peace and communion.
The author is Rector of John Vianney Seminary in Dhaka
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