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Peace on Earth?

December 24, 2007

Pastor Bill Baldwin, Prairie Ev. United Church of Christ, Lester Prairie

I was recently at a Christmas party where we all had our turn to share a Christmas memory.

The most touching recollection was from a retired pastor who had served our country in World War II. He recalled that it was around Christmas time and he and his bombing crew had bombed significant targets in Germany.

He was later taken a prisoner of war in Germany and they were being marched from one place to another. As he was marching through a very bombed out area, one that he knew his own crew had likely bombed, he smelled a horrible smell.

He asked someone the source of that horrible pungent odor, and was told that it was from the decaying bodies of all those who were killed in the bombing. He said that for a moment, time disappeared and he had a profound realization that killing anyone, including any enemy, was evil.

He vowed then and there to never be involved in supporting even the idea of killing another person. He, at that time, felt his call to serve God and become a pastor committed to peace.

This is the time when we sing about peace on earth and good will toward everyone; men and women, boys and girls. Where is that peace?

It is certainly not in what we see happening around the world day in and day out, year after year. On earth, there is little peace for the majority of people.

So, what is this peace we sing about?

We have great evil happening in Iraq. The retired pastor I mentioned must be sick to his soul at all the killing happening there. Again, I ask, where is the peace?

There seems to be no end to the evil. In our own country, there are murder and crime and acts of violence. Just recently, a troubled young man opened fire at a shopping mall, killing and wounding numerous people. What leads a person, who should be looking to the future with hope, to do something so utterly destructive?

Does God not care about us? Will we never know peace?

When we sing about peace on earth, we are singing about the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that came into the world with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. His peace resides within all who believe, and His peace is eternal.

In this world, there will likely always be wars and rumors of war, but with Christ, we have the strength to endure all things and cling to the hope that we, indeed, will live forever beyond this life in the unimaginable presence of the one true God. That, my friends, is the good news.

It is so fun to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas time. Even the Santa Claus part of things is a whole lot of fun.

Let’s really enjoy the whole season this year. Let’s enjoy the music and the cookies and the lights. Let’s enjoy the preparation, and even the shopping.

Let’s let those who have a difficult time this time of year know that it is okay for them to just be who they need to be in this season.

May we also take time to remember that the history of the entire world literally changed when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. There was hope where there was no hope.

The world, of course, didn’t know it at that time. It was years and years later, when the world started to hear stories of this person who not only was crucified by the Roman government at the urging of the Jewish leaders, but who also had a miraculous birth. As the decades and centuries marched on, the stories of Jesus grew and grew until we have wonderful traditions to remember every part of his life and ministry.

I wish you a merry Christmas from everyone in Lester Prairie. We have four churches in town who all are sharing in preparing for Christmas in this Advent season. God’s blessings to you. Amen.