Peace! It's wonderful!
At Christmas, peace is the most common subject which comes to the minds of people throughout the world. Christmas is a celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ as the 'Prince of Peace'. It is a recognition that only Christ can bring us peace.
In olden days, in times of conflict, the warring parties would lay down their arms on Christmas Day. For a moment, they would stop killing each other. This was a powerful acknowledgement that war was contrary to the Spirit of Christ.
However, even then they had little notion of the beauty of the gift of peace. The dynamics of peace eluded them completely. They missed the salient point that peace is not merely an absence of human conflict. Peace is a gift which transcends all sorts of human striving, all manifestations of human ambitions.
Many persons will offer messages at Christmas. They will pose as agents and builders of peace. However, few of them understand what peace is all about. In fact, many of them could be better characterized as disturbers of the peace.
When Christians talk about peace they need to reflect on the life of Christ. Peace is not a category which is the product of human beings. Christ is the author and origin of peace. As we read in the Letter to the Ephesians, "He is our peace." No other person can be a source of peace. But we can be "a channel of peace".
To be a channel of peace, we have to believe firmly in God. We have to submit ourselves completely to Christ. We must be determined to live according to the Spirit of Christ. We must place God above all our desires, our striving, our hope. He must take first place in everything. We must love all our brothers and sisters. God has given us the commandment to do so.
People who live grossly immoral lives, people who flaunt the basic principles of justice, people who have no respect for the rules of morality, cannot be channels of peace. People who make every effort to win at the expense of their brothers and sisters, people who trample on the rights of their fellow-men, people who adopt corrupt practices to overcome others, cannot be channels of peace. People who pretend to be religious but merely use religion as a cover in the pursuit of their own selfish ends cannot communicate peace to others because they themselves have no experience of peace. Only people who place God and his laws above all their ambitions, desires and plans, can be agents of peace.
One great threat to peace which is very common in our post-modern world is violence. Active Christians must always renounce violence. Violence can never be a road to peace. In fact, violence merely multiplies violence, and we end in a vicious cycle, from which it becomes virtually impossible to extricate ourselves.
Our problem is that we have a very simple concept of violence. Violence takes several forms. There is physical violence and material violence. There is violence in the use of implements or weapons. There is verbal violence. There is the violence of injustice. There is also the violence of unjust activities, which might be legal but unethical. The very structure of a society might promote violence. It was one of the prophetic voices after the Second Vatican Council, Dom Helder Camara, who spoke of the triple violence, the violence of poverty, the violence of trade and aid policies and the violence of politics.
Few of us have had any experience of the kind of peace that Christ brought into this world. At best, we have a faint idea of what a wonderful thing this might be. St. Paul describes it as "peace beyond the world's understanding." To experience, therefore, peace at Christmas, we need to rid ourselves of all worldly attitudes, practices and concepts and subject ourselves wholeheartedly to the Prince of Peace. He alone can bless us with peace.