Christmas is the time of year when we are reminded of why Christ came into the world in the first place. We sing songs like Edmund H. Sears’ “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” with lyrics as wonderful as these:
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.
Did you catch those important lyrics? On that original Christmas, the angels sing a song, a song that dates back to the Prophets. It is the song of Peace. After two thousand years of wrong, the song is sang. And yet, sadly, man at war with man does not hear this love song. The Christmas Carol pleads with us, "Hush the noise of war, you men of strife, so you can hear the angels’ song!!"
In this Christmas season, many American Christians are unquestioningly backing their country’s war in Iraq. I know that this is a very complicated issue, and that the implications of “pulling out too early” are grave. That’s not my point here. My point is simply this: Christmas is the celebration of the arrival of the Prince of Peace, and we Christians need to begin there in our discussions about this war instead of beginning with blind patriotism, partisan politics, and manipulative rhetoric that we must “support our troops.”
Look again at that wonderful Christmas passage in Isaiah:
“In that day of peace, battle gear will no longer be issued. Never again will uniforms be bloodstained by war. All such equipment will be burned. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the LORD Almighty will guarantee this!” (Isaiah 9:5-7, NLT)
I’m not sure that many American Christians have read that passage in its fuller context. We love the titles of Jesus found in verse 6, but we fail to read the verses surrounding it, which highlight that “battle gear will no longer be issued. Never again will uniforms be bloodstained by war. All such equipment will be burned… His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end.”
Some will say that these are verses reserved for the future, that those are “eschatological verses.” I say look again at the words of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (-Jesus, quoted in Matthew 5:9, NIV)
He tells us that if we are truly his followers that we are to do as He would do. I contend that the eschaton began with that first Christmas; we Christians are an eschatological people, cooperating with God in redeeming the world "in the here and now." Peacemaking is not some future endeavor. It is God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
I wonder if many American Christians have meditated on the implications of Mathew 5:9. If I want to be called a “Child of God,” then I had better be a Christian who seeks to make peace. With this as our starting point in discussions about the war in Iraq, we can move toward doing what God wants us to do.
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