The Rev. Leslie Houseworth-Fields
That’s how the first lesson of Christmas Eve opens. It’s familiar and comforting, as the familiar words go on to say that light has shined on those who live in deep darkness, that God has brought joy to people living under oppression, for a child has been borne to us. The name of that child is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace—and God is bringing an endless peace through an heir to the throne of David (vv3,4, 6,7). This year we’re going to hear a bit we haven’t heard in Episcopal churches before, in that missing verse 5. It’s pretty shocking, but it helps explain why the hunger for light is so intense, and the joy so great when it comes: “For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.” The coming of this prince of peace will mean the end of all signs of war and violence. An occupied people will finally live in peace, without anxiety about who or what will confront them the next time they go out their front doors.
– Katherine Jefferts Schori
I often find myself deeply affected by headlines in the news ranging from war-torn Syria to talks of a possible nuclear war with North Korea. I’ve been concerned about the chasm that divides our nation; the treatment of Muslim friends and neighbors; the fate of undocumented friends; the list goes on and on.
One of my clergy friends commented that she felt herself giving over to the gloom and hate that seems so pervasive in our current moment. For the past few months she had been filled with anger, and she realized she was having a difficult time loving others, especially those whose opinions differed from hers. After realizing that she was being pulled into the darkness, my friend shared, “I need to stay in the light because it’s in the light that I feel closer to God.”
Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori reminds us of the message of hope found in Isaiah and other Biblical texts: that Jesus’s return promises a glorious future. It promises the end of war and that we will someday live in peace. During this Advent Season, let us look to the future without fear and anxiety, but with hope, anticipation, and great expectation.
Prayer: Holy God, as we await your return, may our hearts be filled with your love, hope, joy, and peace. Amen.