This year is ending with so much turmoil on so many fronts. The finance crisis has left people insecure because of a drop in their superannuation benefits. There is the fear of businesses collapsing and becoming unemployed. We may be tempted to wonder if Christ’s ‘peace on earth’ is a fantasy.
Financial pressures can lead to tensions in marriages and family life. Anxiety can incline all of us to be rude and abrupt with others.
Then there are the problems associated with wars and terrorism. Violence is growing in our cities, and one-punch deaths are on the rise. Where is the peace promised at that first Christmas?
Where are we looking for peace?
For many people, peace is something to be surrounded by – like the water surrounding a gold fish in a bowl. They see peace as the absence of war, violence, vandalism and tensions in relationships. It is a sense of security and freedom from anxiety and worry. This is different from the peace Christ brings.
What kind of peace does Christ bring?
Christ’s peace begins deep within the person, and grows. As it grows, people become less troubled and anxious about external problems. The peace Christ offers remains, regardless of the world outside. It is not affected by illness or suffering, for it is deeper than these things.
Those who develop this peace grow as peace filled people. And the peace growing within them influences lives of others – their spouses, families and beyond. Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall be recognised as children of God’ [Matthew 5:]. He also said [John 14:27]:
Peace I leave you, my own peace I give you – a peace the world
cannot give, this is my gift to you.
Christmas reminds us of the promise of this peace. It encourages us to ask: ‘Am I growing in peace within?’
Unfortunately, it can be all too obvious at Christmas when people lack peace within. Family arguments can break out, and memories of past hurts are dredged up. Christmas becomes a tension-filled time.
The personal relationship with Jesus
Only Jesus himself can empower us. He does this as we pray to him daily, sharing with him our joys and sorrows, our hurts and disappointments, our confusions and anxieties.
Most importantly, Jesus taught that anyone wanting to be close with him needs the Eucharist [John 6:16]:
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in
His idea of Christianity was different from those who say ‘I can be a good Christian without going to Mass.’ Jesus gave us the Mass as the principal way of drawing close to him and growing in inner peace he alone can give. Who has ever prayed and paid close attention in the Mass and not left a little more peaceful?
Let us find Christmas peace
So at a time of financial instability, violence and wars, when our lives may be in turmoil, let us remember Christ’s wish to give us inner peace.
Let us ask ourselves honestly whether we are opening ourselves to Christ’s peace by deepening in a personal relationship with him; whether we are praying, worshipping and trying daily to live as he taught.
11 November 2008