These are common refrains during the Christmas season. Throughout this special and holy time of the year we frequently hear the Scripture verse, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). The Christmas season inspires us to produce fruits of the spirit – joy, kindness, forbearance, love, gentleness, hope, patience, goodness, self-control, and peace (Galatians 5:22-23). To spend time with loved ones. To celebrate by eating delicious food and exchanging gifts. Focusing on the wonder and miracle of Christ’s birth.
But this year, Scripture’s cry for peace has been particularly loud in my heart. I think it is because the world is largely living in contradiction to Scripture’s directions and instruction. We are called to be peacemakers. Yet, every day we are confronted throughout media with images of the disturbing, violent, unpredictable world events. These disheartening events are triggered by a variety of human conditions such as hatred, anger, hurt, revenge, mental health issues, radical religious or political philosophies, racism, or repression. The world feels increasingly unstable, chaotic and volatile.
I think most of humankind hopes for peaceful resolutions to the myriad of critical world issues. Praying that there will be innovative and diplomatic ways generated to help navigation through the grim disagreements and challenges. But it seems there is heightened need for prayer this year. Prayers that all humankind will begin to epitomize the good will and forgiveness they talk and sing about. Prayers for restoration, comfort and agreement with one another, and for God’s love to be evidenced in the world (2 Corinthians 13:11).
In a season where we are invited to various Christmas festivities it is no surprise that hospitality has also been placed on my heart. But again, it seems that this year it has assumed a magnified role. After reflection it becomes clear these two words, peace and hospitality, are intertwined. For Scripture calls us not only to be peaceful but also to be “hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Peter 4:9) and to show hospitality to strangers, to divide our bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into the house, and cover the naked. (Isaiah 58:7). Romans 12:20 instructs that if our enemy is hungry, we are to feed him, and if he is thirsty to give him a drink. And if there is a traveler we are to open our doors and provide lodging (Job 31:32). And in Judges 19:20 we read that “The old man said, ‘Peace be with you. However, let all your needs be my responsibility; only do not spend the night in the open square.’ So he brought him into his house, and gave fodder to the donkeys. And they washed their feet and ate and drank.”
We are challenged to be hospitable, to open our hearts and homes. Even to our enemies. Imagine what our world would be like if all homes warmly welcomed the stranger, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the diverse.
So although we may not be able to personally influence major world events over this Christmas season, we are called to do whatever we can to spread peace and love within our families, neighbourhoods and communities. We can begin by praying for the spirit of hospitality and peace to invade people’s hearts around the world. We can pray for healing and reconciliation. We can pray for wisdom in our leaders. We can look for ways to share our abundant blessings with anyone who may be struggling within our own communities. We can donate to good causes and missions. We can set more places at our Christmas dinner tables and invite those who are away from their families and homes. We can donate to the food banks and serve dinners to the homeless. We can give the infinitely priceless gifts of forgiveness and second chances. We can shine God’s light and love so brightly that it filters into hearts and places where there is little or no hope.
Change can be initiated if we commit to doing these simple but profound acts of love, kindness and goodwill. So this Christmas when we hear “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” let’s remember to live out that peace, provide that hospitality, and be the love the world so desperately needs.