Sunday, December 11, 2022

Third Sunday of Advent - Peace

When I was growing up, my family, like millions of others, would watch television series. Many of them were situational comedies. One of the programs that we watched was MASH. If you aren’t familiar with the show, it is about the United States and its involvement in the Korean War from the perspective of US Army surgeons. Although it was about the war in Korea, the writers used comedy to help us understand the thoughts and feelings of those involved. Like most shows, the writers and producers would create a Christmas episode that would air near the Christmas holiday.

One of the Christmas episodes that remains a favorite is called “Dear Sis”. In the episode, Father Mulcahy writes home at Christmas to his sister. He is concerned that he isn’t making a difference in people’s lives. At the end of the episode, the staff at this Mobile Army Surgical Hospital come together to celebrate Christmas. In the ending scene, one of the main characters, Hawkeye, stands up and recognizes the Father for all that he does and how he inspires them. They raise their glasses in a toast and sing a wonderful Latin song, “Dona Nobis Pacem”. Hawkeye chides the Father lovingly and tells him that he can translate the title for him. 

Father Mulcahy, a Catholic priest, tells Hawkeye, “No need to. I say it every night before I go to sleep. ‘Give us peace’.”

As the scene closes, they see snow falling and take in the quiet. Then, they hear an Army ambulance pull into the camp and they are, once again, faced with the horrors of war.

When we are faced with the horrors of whatever situation that comes up, our deepest prayer is for peace. We see people struggling. Crime is on the rise. People embrace chaos and violence. It is so frightening to witness the evil in the hearts of people. It is not enough to steal from others, but some go to the extreme and commit murder. You have to wonder where love and peace have gone.

In Ukraine, we watch as people face war right there in their towns and streets. These people suffer as the two governments continue to wage war. Peace for all is what we as a species desire and want especially during this time. It is the Christmas season and we pray for peace.

The American General Douglas MacArthur said this about soldiers, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
It is so easy for two nations to go to war, but the civilians are the ones that pay the highest price. They see their homes destroyed and witness the deaths of family, friends and neighbors. To them, war takes on an entirely different meaning. They are non-combatants, but they are plunged into urban warfare and experience horrible atrocities. 

Although General MacArthur’s words are true for soldiers, they are equally true for those embroiled in the conflict. Civilians pray for peace and with the ability to wage war on the home front, they, too, must “bear the deepest wounds and scars of war”.

The eighth-century BC Israelite prophet after whom the Book of Isaiah is named writes in chapter two of his book, “The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.

As a pastor and human being, I, like Father Mulcahy, pray each night for the gift of peace and for love to fill the world. When we love one another and put our petty differences aside, peace is the outcome of love. You can’t wage war against someone you love and care for. Peace gives us hope for the future. If we can all live in peace, we can work together to solve some of the common problems we face. Famine, disease and pestilence can be things of the past only if we work together in peace and for the betterment of all.

These are the lofty dreams and hopes of just one person, but I believe I am not the only one who believes in these dreams and hopes. Even small children can see that peace, love and charity are the best gifts that we can give others. 

These things don’t have to be dreams or something we long for. We should be united in our faith and dedicated to serving God Almighty. With that common goal, we can, with God’s help and guidance, hammer our swords into plowshares and no longer train for war. Peace can be something that we can achieve, but it must start by loving one another, dedicating ourselves to God and seeking Him all the time.

It was out of love that He gave us His son, Jesus, on a very special night, a quiet and holy night. While the world rested its weary head in peaceful slumber, a light came into the world to guide us back to the Father and to give us love, peace and hope.

During this third week of Advent, I ask you to think about the meaning of peace and how you can unite with other Christians to pray for peace so that we can begin to “bind up the wounds” of those who have endured so much.

The sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, said, during the final days of the Civil War, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

As we approach that blessed day when the Light of the World gave us hope, we should pray for that lasting peace not just for ourselves but also for all those in the world. It should be a prayer that each of us gives not just for this holiday, but for every day.

Let us all live in love, peace and faith. Paul, in chapter four of his letter to the Philippians, describes that peace as “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand”. When we seek that peace and live as He intended as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, we can stand firm in His grace.  

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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