Bishop: Bring God’s love and peace to others
On Christmas Eve in 1914, in the cold and muddy trenches of northern France a strange sound was heard.
Not the sound of shelling and rifle fire, but men’s voices singing in German Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.
The tune was familiar and from the allied side came the echo in English “Silent night, holy night … all is calm, all is bright”.
For a moment, it was as if time stood still and our common humanity and, at that time, shared faith united enemies in a chorus of song. The peace was short-lived but is remembered.
This Christmas Eve marks the 200th anniversary of that carol.
It paints a wonderful picture of peace and calm in the presence of the baby Jesus, Lord at his birth, of that moment when heaven and earth joined in wonder at the God of all creation stepping into time and space as one of us.
We live in a time of virtual reality, virtual currency … virtual everything.
And sometimes the pictures we receive of Christmas seem just that: virtual, not really real. After all, the peace of which angels first sang has never been our experience in human history.
We have moments of peace, but short-lived. There are no special stars in the skies, only drones that prevent families from flying to see loved ones.
In Bermuda, Christmas is a wonderful time for many, but for some it is an annual reminder of all that is wrong.
Whilst everyone else is buying presents and celebrating, there is a significant number who are reliant on the generosity of others for basic food, electricity and water.
In families there is often the spectre of having to spend time with estranged relatives, or with the tangible realisation that loved ones are missing.
But the word “incarnation”, which is applied to Jesus, means literally becoming flesh and blood.
Behind all the virtual images of Christmas, God really did become one of us. Born under a banner of shame, in an occupied country, in the terrible conditions of an animal stable because there was no room anywhere else.
Soon thereafter, his parents fled with him to avoid the machinations of a megalomaniac ruler as a refugee.
Juxtapose that picture of harsh reality with the song of the angels, the wonder of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men with their gifts, and you have a picture of a God who has come to us, who understands us, who is with us, but whose mission was to lift us, to save us, to forgive us and to transform us.
He gives us hope that our troubles are not the final word. He gives us the challenge to incarnate his love to others by our presence and presents.
I pray this Christmas that you will have moments of peace, wherever you are.
And when it is all over, that we don’t just return to the fray as if nothing has happened as they did in the trenches after Christmas in 1914, but that we seek to bring God’s love, peace and blessing to others from our homes to the House on the Hill, in our communities and schools, on our roads and with our neighbours.
But, also because we are not able to do this on our own, that we may come to “love’s pure light” — and invite God’s light to shine in our hearts.
On behalf of the Anglican Church of Bermuda and my family I pray that God may truly bless each one of you this Christmas season and into the new year and beyond.