The Christmas Hope For Peace

December 19, 2008

Christmas Message from the General Board of Global Ministries 2008

Hope for peace--the projection and possibility of peace--is integral to the Christmas celebration, and to the Christian life and mission.

·         "Prince of peace," the prophet Isaiah declares in anticipating the Messiah;
·         "Peace on earth, goodwill…" the angels sing in announcing Jesus' birth;
·         "Peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near…," Ephesians 2 says of Christ's mission; and
·         "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you," Jesus promises.
 
Peace often seems far off--beyond the horizon, not quite within our human grasp. Peace?

At any time, in many places, there is no peace. On the global stage, this year, this month:
 
·         Combatants surge and weapons roar in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo;
·         Terrorists rampage in India and Sudan;
·         Civil strife continues in Colombia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines; and
·         Tensions flare into discord in the Holy Land of the Middle East.

Violence in families, communities, and cities the world over are reminders of the absence of peace and goodwill in hearts and attitudes.

Hope for peace at Christmas 2008 sends us to pray: "Bring, God, your better world to birth, your kingdom, love's domain, where peace with God, and peace on earth, and peace eternal reign."

The peace associated with the Messiah, and with Christmas, is dynamic, expanding, endless; it is linked to justice and righteousness--peace for the faithful, peace for the whole earth, peace for friends and strangers, and peace freely given.

A few years ago, civic and religious groups in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, began an annual New Year's Eve Concert for Hope and Peace, modeled in part on a Concert for Peace held each December in New York City. The Canadians added "hope" to their title, emphasizing a sense of optimism for the future. "Let hope and peace grow," was the headline on one local newspaper's account of the concert.

Expanding hope is a Christian responsibility, a part of Christian mission--peace among and within nations, tribes, and families.
 
To "seek justice, freedom, and peace" is one of the United Methodist goals of mission. The quest is never easy but always essential, reflecting the church's commitment to "making disciples for the transformation of the world."
 
The General Board of Global Ministries invites all United Methodists and friends to join this Christmas in the prayer, "Grant us God, in this our day, the ancient dream of peace."
 
Join us also in celebrating and supporting ministries of peace and justice in which the church, through Global Ministries, is engaged in Afghanistan, Congo, Sudan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the Middle East. In mission and ministry we expand the ancient hope and dream for peace--in our day and for all tomorrows.
 
Edward W. Paup
General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church