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Sean Major-Campbell | Where is the peace from God?

Published:Sunday | December 10, 2023 | 12:06 AM
Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Fr Sean Major-Campbell
Fr Sean Major-Campbell
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THE LITURGICAL season of Advent is a most beautiful one. It carries a message of hope and love and light and joy. It is also marked by lovely hymns in preparation for celebrations of Christ’s birth and Christ’s return.

It may also be a difficult time in a world where so much does not fit into our nicely crafted religious categories and images of peace on earth and goodwill to all. It is a time when traditional images of the holy land manger scene enhance Christmas depictions of the holy family – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

It is a time when we also hear Christmas carols and the ever so divine, O Holy Night hymn. And yet, the world, and in particular the Middle East, is full of so much unrest, confusion, war and so much of what does not resemble the shalom of God.

BATTLE ZONE

Who remembers in 2002 when Israel warplanes, tanks, and troops launched a massive attack on Bethlehem. It was such a contrast to the serenity of that line in the Christmas carol, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…” Manger Square was transformed into a battle zone. The Church of the Nativity was now a contrast to its message of light and hope and peace and love.

Faith is sometimes challenged when people see the ugly, painful, tragic reality of war. Where is God in all of this? How could this be happening? Isn’t this the Holy Land? What use does religion serve if God’s children are failing to be agents of light and hope and peace and love? And these questions come from the hearts of many who genuinely wonder why it is taking so long for peace to come.

The gospel message still rings true as the hymn observes:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in Thee tonight.

How interesting that the simple message of Advent still holds a most profound truth. If Christ consciousness is welcomed into our life and living, the world indeed becomes a better place. In fact, what a world of difference it would make if we truly understood that little prayer song, “Into my heart. Into my heart. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.” It moves away from a literal read of apocalyptic presentations of Jesus coming on clouds.

KINGDOM VALUES

The shalom of God is not magic. Instead, it is what happens when we welcome kingdom values of righteousness, peace, and love. If Christ is with me and within my heart, then I will be an agent of transforming love and peace for all.

Our world needs to place more value on images of happy children playing safely in streets of love and peace. The Christian message of Christmas always calls us to a vision of laughter and happiness and innocence. That is why the preparation season of Advent invites us to pause and prepare ourselves.

The advent pause for preparation should challenge us to look at our lives. Unfortunately, so much of what is called Christianity is an ugly mess. It is so bad, that some have become agents of hate, condemnation, war, and oppression.

This Advent, listen again to George Fridrich Handel’s Messiah. That piece celebrating the message of the Advent prophet Isaiah in Chapter 40:4 of the book which carries his name. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”

Many do not realise that the geographical features in Isaiah’s message are actually about the hills and gullies in our lives. Our lives should be made into highways to welcome our God with all the attendant shalom of God.

PRAY FOR PEACE IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

On this International Human Rights Day, today, let us return to hearts of love for those who are victims of human rights abuses. Let us speak out and work for freedom and protection for all children. Let us beware of our silence in the face of oppression, war crimes, and wickedness. Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine.

This Advent, let us spend a few moments processing the message in the traditional lyrics of the hymns:

Where charity stands watching

And faith holds wide the door

The dark night wakes, the glory breaks

And Christmas comes once more.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born in us today.

Let us move beyond the frills and see the vision of ancient religious language. It is increasingly not the words of secular hype and antireligious sentiments. However, I will recommend this for our daily prayer over this Advent and coming Christmas season.

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel.

On this International Human Rights Day and second Sunday of Advent, Christ Church in Vineyard Town (Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands), will again observe this celebration at 9 a.m. Oh, that our world would abide by the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our guest preacher will be the Rev Cynara Dube Sookoo from the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago. Justice for one and justice for all.

Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest and advocate for human dignity and human rights. Send feedback to seanmajorcampbell@yahoo.com or columns@gleanerjm.com