For me and others, the past year seems to have been darker than usual. All I have to do is list some of the events that have taken place: shootings in schools in Pakistan, the U.S. and Canada; the crisis in the Ukraine; the sheer, unmitigated horror of ISIS; shootings in Ferguson and New York and in the Parliament buildings in Ottawa; the number of deaths caused by ebola and the fear that dread disease strikes in the hearts of people who live thousands of miles away; the rise of child poverty in the wealthiest nations, including Canada; the increasing homelessness of so many, including right here in Cranbrook. It has been a tough year.
One of the promises of Christmas is that we celebrate the birth of one who is called “Prince of Peace.” To be honest, some days I wonder if peace will ever be more than just a possibility in our world. This world seems hell–bent on self–destruction. People seem to find greater delight in waging war than in working for peace. The rich are not about to give up their privilege, but seem more and more intent on hoarding their wealth. The gap between rich and poor is increasing exponentially, and there are no signs that it will slow down.
I could go on and on. It is a litany that seemingly has no end. It might almost be enough to make a person give up.
But I don’t. While it is true that I have struggled with depression in the past, I remain generally a hopeful person. I seek to find signs of hope in the world, and in my life. I look for signs of people working together to make the world a better place.
I do that, because usually I see the glass as half–full rather than half–empty. But I also do this for a more important reason — which is that I believe this is exactly the way God works in this world.
If we claim to follow the Prince of Peace, then God will call us to be peacemakers.
If we claim to follow the one who came to give life in all its abundance, then God will call us to ensure that all people share in that abundance.
If we claim to follow the one who is the light of the world, then God will call us to be people of light rather than the darkness.
If we claim to follow the one who was born among the poor and vulnerable ones in the world, the one who showed us that God’s goodness is meant for all people, then God will call us to work for an equal distribution of the world’s wealth for all people.
Since I believe this is how God works in the world, then I will look for signs of God’s presence in those people and movements in whom the gospel promises are being fulfilled. Here are some of those signs.
Queen Elizabeth reminded us in her Christmas address this year about the Christmas truce which happened quite spontaneously during World War 1. On Christmas Day, soldiers in different sectors climbed out of their trenches and crossed no–man’s–land to mingle with the enemy. They exchanged souvenirs and food, played soccer, arranged joint burial services for those who had died, and sang “Silent Night” together. For just a moment, peace broke out in the midst of war.
Last fall, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The news media covered that event quite widely. However, we didn’t hear much about the weeks of peaceful protest organized by the citizens of Leipzig. They gathered on Monday nights at St. Nicholas Church, where Bach composed so many of his cantatas. At first, there were only 1,000 or so people, but the movement quickly swelled to over 300,000 singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world.
Let me end with one more example. We hear regularly about the brutality of the Taliban as they repress women and children, and shoot those children who dare to go to school. One of the young women they shot in 2012 was named Malala Yousafzai. She refused to give up, even after having been shot. She has become a powerful voice which has captured the imagination of people all around the world.
Last month, she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
There are signs of light in the darkness of this world. Through those signs, God continues to work. We can be part of that light as well.
Next week … more examples. Happy New Year to all. May it be a year when peace and justice breaks out among us all.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook