written by Rev Gary Heard

Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, the imminent arrival of the Christmas season raises significant and complex questions of faith and life which have immediate import. As we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, we are confronted with critical questions about the nature and purpose of peace. As the world sits on the precipice of a very public and questionable conflict where religion is undoubtedly a key component in the equation – both in the immediate conflict and in the global implications – we must give pause to reflect upon the nature and purpose of Christmas peace.

There are those who, in identifying peace with the absence of conflict, eschew conflict in any form. At the other end of the spectrum are those who regard peace as only achievable when all parties agree entirely on every point (usually their own, rather than accepting the other’s perspective at any level). Both extremes exhibit a lack of respect for and acceptance of difference, something which is foundational to humanity, as evidenced in the story of Creation. God created humans different: male and female. This diversity of humanity is at the foundation of all. Therefore, peace is not to be found by removing the diversity, but in respecting and celebrating it, in recognising and affirming the tensions it creates.

It is interesting to note that the One we celebrate as the Prince of Peace is quoted at one point in the gospels saying, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” (Matt 10:34). Clearly then the pathway to peace is never easy, nor is it simple. It involves confronting difference in families and households, as well as the internal conflicts within us all. The global conflict we see at this point in history is echoed in the heart of every human being at different stages of their lives.

As we enter the Advent Season, and contemplate the coming of the Prince of Peace into this world, we are confronted with difficult questions:
How do we handle the tensions between love which forgives and the execution of justice? Can we love people whose faith and value systems are different from our own? Are we able to celebrate the family of humanity in a world riven with tension and difference? Can true peace be achieved without justice: economic justice, social justice, as well as legal concepts of justice?

November 24, 2002
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