The nativity of Jesus Christ is proclaimed by angelic choirs in the heights of heaven, and the joyous news is echoed afterwards by modest shepherds in fields near Bethlehem. Meanwhile, a mother and father care for their newborn child. No place for this family could be found in the inn, so they shelter among livestock. The circumstances are strikingly humble, yet their infant is the occasion of the angels’ song:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom God favors!”
The splendor of Christmas highlights many contrasts in our surroundings. First of all – it is all about what we are given – surprisingly – by God. This revelation of glory in heaven is given to people living off the land, dependent on simple blessings found in fields and farmyards, in caring for sheep and celebrating a new birth. It is they who first hear the promise of so much more than bare survival or the simplest pleasure. They dare to imagine the real possibility of peace on earth. The song of angels encourages them to give glory to God alone and to seek peace with others, far and near.
Conditions in the world today are marked by contrasts at least as great as those in Jesus’ time. Everywhere we see wildly contradictory instances of poverty and wealth, systems of tyranny and of justice, brutal violence and sincere attempts at reconciliation. Through it all, we are keenly aware of the need for a peace worthy of the name: just peace for all.
In this season, and in looking to the New Year, we in the World Council of Churches find encouragement in the potential for seeking peace that is to be afforded in May 2011 at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Kingston, Jamaica. Taking as its motto “Glory to God; Peace on Earth”, the IEPC will serve as a culmination of the churches’ Decade for Overcoming Violence (2001-2010) and an occasion to renew our common commitment to the establishment of a just peace among peoples.
We encourage you to make certain your church is participating in the IEPC as all WCC member churches have been invited to send representatives to the convocation. For the World Council of Churches, peace is a vital part of living the fellowship and building Christian unity.
In these days we hear anew the opening accounts in the life of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Our hearts and spirits are refreshed once more. In response, we rededicate ourselves to the praise of God in highest heaven and to our ministries of peace on earth.
May the blessing of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you always.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches