A lot is going on right now. We’ve experienced the deaths of people close to us, and even deaths of well known figures like Rosalyn Carter, Henry Kissinger and Sandra Day O’Connor. We are privy to almost non-stop news stories of the wars raging in Ukraine and Israel. To a lesser degree, we occassionally hear of the humanitarian crisis in the Sudan. It was just recorded some of the highest levels of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere.

There just seems to be a lot going on for us to contemplate.

As we have entered the Advent season, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is supposed to be a joyous and happy event. How do we celebrate in the midst of such tragic circumstances we are living through?

We are told in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, during this time of year it is lit up for the celebration of his birth. This year, in memory of all those who have been tragically killed in the current conflict, Methodist churches around the world are being asked to not light the second candle of their Advent Wreaths. This is the candle of peace. We are being asked to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering in the Holy Land.

And yet, the celebration of Christmas is going to happen. There is no shortage of tinsel and garland being strung. The shopping malls are no less crowded. The grocery stores are selling all sorts of goods for lavish parties and feasts. I’ve put up my Christmas tree and decorated my home for the season. Its happening.

The celebration is going to come, but should it? Should we celebrate with all that’s happening right now? Do we dare?

When Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago, the world wasn’t much different. Certainly not as different as we would like to pretend. We’ve made all kinds of technological advances since that time. And yet, the human heart has remained the same. Just as calculating. Just as greedy. Just as selfish. Just as self-centered. Just as xeonophobic. Lots of things have transpired since the birth of Jesus, and yet things remain much the same. Jesus was born in a time when competing interests were clashing in his homeland. Oppression and degradation were constant companions to many. Human life was seen as expendable.

With all that was going on; with all the tragedy, and poverty, and senseless death, it was into that world a small child was born. His father and mother were not celebrities or important people. He wasn’t going to be reared with a silver spoon in his mouth. As hard a life as he was going to have ahead, it was still a moment to celebrate. Mary and Joseph would have experienced much joy at the birth of their son. Surely there was a celebration.

We are called to celebrate my friends, even in the face of sadness and tragedy. The Prince of Peace is coming. We have an undying hope that this might be the year when peace could truly find a way to make things different. Of course we must celebrate. Its in the celebrating where our hearts are opened and all the hope, joy, love and peace that belongs to God, can be poured into us. We celebrate because of what God has done, is doing and will yet do in the future.

In John 14:27 we hear Jesus say, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The world will always present us with its troubles, its woes, its problems, its tragedies. Up against all of that, Jesus comes to give us peace. We celebrate the peace Jesus brings, and in our own ways, we are obligated to spread that peace as far and wide as we can. That’s how we celebrate!

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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