Gloria Dios! En La Teirra Paz a los hombres!
Glory to God and on Earth Peace to men!
Today’s passage gives us these famous words, echoed in many churches in many languages across the world tonight. Words of comfort, of jo , of peace. These words make their way onto Christmas Cards and into the collective hearts of so many Christians and non-Christians alike.
But this year, I find myself asking why these words are so compleling. What is it about these words that endure? That speak truth to our hearts each year?
Too many time I think they endure because they are the opposite of what we live in day in and day out. Peace, Joy, Hope, Love the four Sunday’s of Advent are celebrated to remind us of what the Christ Child brings into our lives. Peace born amid chaos. Peace born into the war and rubble of our lives.
The headlines of the day are anything but good news. There are continued attacks in Aleppo even after a cease-fire has been declared to allow citizens to leave. There are continued concerns about the terrorist attack in Berlin which has European nations weighing heavily the cost of freedom verses the promise of security. People are trying to unravel the reasons behind the hijacking of a Libyan Airplane.
Fear is a much more common emotion for us than peace. We know what it’s like to be afraid. To be worried about our loved ones. TO be uncertain about our jobs. To be surrounded. Even fears from years ago have a way of returning unexpectedly. Tomorrow morning citizens in a section of Augsburg Germany (more than 54, 000 people) will be asked to leave their homes so that a bomb from WWII can be diffused. They must leave their homes Christmas Day so that a bomb from 1944 can be removed from their neighborhood.
Yes, fear is a common thing today, and it was in Mary’s day as well.
The fears of that day were perhaps not too different from today. There were fears of the government, wondering what might or might not be required of citizens. Fears for safety. No doubt the Shepherds that night were on the lookout for wildlife that might attack their sheep, for bandits who might abscond with a lamb or ewe. For silly sheep who might wonder off a cliff. Of all the things, they feared, none compared to a greeting from the heavenly hosts.
Into their everyday ordinary world, of chaos and fears, the angles appeared and told them to not be afraid. Don’t fear, we bring you glad tidings of great joy!
But its not easy to do. The world as we know it is so full of fears that they threaten to overrun us at a moment’s notice. So we stick to what we know. We say our prayers of protection, like spells cast out against evil spirits. We carry our lucky charms to reassure us when the road is dark. We clasp our security blankets knowing that all is right in the world if we can feel that silky fabric.
Like Linus in Charlie Brown, we need our blue blanket to make us feel safe in a world that seems largely out of our control. It gives us stability and hope when we cannot find it within ourselves. But perhaps, just perhaps this year we can be a little bit more like the Linus we see in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.
You may not have noticed it, it took a blog by Jason Soroski for me to notice. Linus, who is attached to the blanket more than anything begins reciting the words from Luke 2 to tell everyone what Christmas is all about.
He is holding his blanket in his hands as he begins to speak. And when he gets to the words, “Fear not” he does the unthinkable. Linus drops his blanket.
The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.
The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.
The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.
This very night, God breaks again into our world with these same words, these same glad tidings of great joy!
This very night, we hear again the promise of the angles and rush with the shepherds to see the babe lying in a manger.
This very night we are invited to let go of our fears and pick up the peace offered in Christ’s name.