Winter solstice is a time of darkness, and yet, hope. We have passed through the longest night of the year, and now we look forward to lengthening days, more sunlight and the promise of warmth in the months ahead, just on the other side of deep winter. Meanwhile, we bundle against winter’s chill, stringing Christmas lights to brighten the gloom and singing carols of goodwill to lighten our mood.
We start Christmas week 2014 in a dark and fearful state. The murder of two police officers in Brooklyn caps a season of violence, protest and soul-searching about racial injustice and bitter national divisions politically, socially, spiritually. Violence never is a solution, but we live in a nation where guns are too plentiful and peacemakers seem too few. Too may people believe in the Old Testament’s teachings on “an eye for an eye” and too few embrace the New Testament message of turning the other cheek along the pathway to peace and reconciliation.
For Christians everywhere, the celebration of the birth of Christ this week should be a time of reflection on the true meaning of Christmas. In observing the birth of the Child, we acknowledge the hope of redemption and salvation. But such hope did not come with shiny trinkets and lovely baubles; the hope was fulfilled in suffering, passion, death and resurrection.
We must bring the strength and witness of faith to our present human struggles. People of faith must do more to confront the anger and violence that degrades our communities, that snuffs out human potential, that disrupts families and destroys lives. We must work for the kind of justice that is essential to ensure long-lasting peace. Justice must start with a genuine commitment to setting aside the weapons of prejudice, suspicion, vengeance and hatred. We must call out the perpetrators of vigilantism and violence in all corners of our society. We must insist that the leaders we have elected to be stewards of our society show some backbone in standing up to the purveyors of injustice.
If we truly believe in “peace and good will toward all people,” we must work harder for justice, the only way to achieve true peace.