This has been a scary year. The news was dominated by wars and humanitarian crises. ISIS, like a medieval witch-hunt, has murdered thousands of women and children, and kidnapped and beheaded aid workers. Christian communities, resident in the Middle East for centuries, have been driven out of their homes and suffered great persecution. In Syria, CAR, South Sudan, in too many countries, death and terror are the norm, and millions have been forced to flee as refugees. Cold War politics have reawakened, leading to tensions and dangerous preparations in NATO. Ebola has raised its head to terrify the whole world. Revelations about child abuse in this country have become more and more distressing, as our hearts break to learn that Rotherham was not alone.
Christmas matters. It is into our broken world that we hear the angel declaring Jesus birth as good news of great joy for all people and the prophet hailing him as the Prince of Peace. We are called to hear and respond to this good news urgently and wholeheartedly we need it as much today as we ever have.
None of our terrible problems can be resolved by good ideas alone, by governments, acts of force or clever schemes. Only when love transforms our hearts is there hope for our world.
Christmas remembers the most extraordinary act of love. The Jesus you see in the nativity is no ordinary child. He is the son of God. God sent him to live among us, and ultimately to die for us on a cross. Without him, we are hopelessly separated from the way of love. We see that all around us. Yet with him, there is hope the hope that Gods love for all people will yet be known and peace will reign on earth.
The Christmas message is love. We can live together in harmony with our neighbours and model what a community based on the Prince of Peace might look like. With other faith communities, churches poured onto the streets in Wolverhampton last month and Stoke this week for the cause of peace. Our work to produce food banks, credit unions, youth clubs and so on is not blowing in the wind but re-building community in such a way that others will see something of the love of Christ for the world.
What seem to be a series of senseless horrors should drive us to our knees in fervent prayer for our world. This Christmas, may we be led in the power of the Spirit to do our bit for peace and to build communities of faith which will bring hope to many; both those who call themselves Christians and those who do not but who long for the Prince of Peace.