By Pastor Kerry Nelson On December 16, 2004
This is a hard devotion for me to write. When the angels sang of the birth of Jesus, they made it very clear: God wants peace for Christmas.
As I sit here this morning, my house is very peaceful. My neighborhood is peaceful. Most of my city is peaceful. Most of this country is very peaceful. But across the world, near the very land where Jesus was born, not terribly far from where he grew up, people are slaughtering one another in a war that my country started. I don't say that as a political statement - that isn't what these devotions are about - but simply as a statement of the truth. We made a choice to enter this war.
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God wants peace for Christmas. Not a temporary cease fire to get through the holidays but a permanent cease fire whereby people learn to live with one another, settle their differences, and treat one another with justice, respect and love.
I have a friend in Iraq who I know reads these devotions each day. He will soon be coming home, thank God! I have a young wife in my congregation - her husband is now serving over there as well and each time I see her my heart goes out to her. One of my confirmation students is now in training and will be Iraq before the year is out. There are many more that I know but these are the ones on my heart as we move into this season so full of the promise of peace.
Now, there is a textual question in the above Bible verse that is crucial for us. The Greek is unclear - one letter is missing - so, when translated into English, decisions must be made. In the passage above it reads, "and on earth peace among those whom he favors." And below that, in my Bible, there is a note, "other ancient authorities read, ‘peace, good will among people."
What is it going to be? Peace among the chosen few whom God favors? Peace only among people of good will? Or peace and good will among all people?
I believe God loves all people. I believe Jesus was born, suffered and died for all people. And because I believe this, then all men are my brothers and all women are my sisters and the only thing that separates us are zip codes. God wants peace for Christmas. Tragically, because of sin - greed, pride, jealousy, ignorance, terroristic violence - that gift is being denied God among many people throughout the world.
Our hearts go out to all people caught up in violence - the victims and the perpetrators, those just doing their job and those just trying to live. I pray that God would inspire all people everywhere toward peace and good will toward their brothers and sisters.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, I don't like it when my children fight. No parent does. I join you in my desire for peace on earth. I pray that you protect soldiers who are trying their best to stay alive, to only use violence when absolutely necessary, to bring a measure of kindness to the victims caught up in a war they didn't choose. Let there be peace on earth, one person at a time. In Jesus' name. Amen.