‘A child has been born for us, a son given to us;authority rests upon his shoulders;and he is named Wonderful Counsellor,Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ (Isaiah 9:6)
|Statue of Mary as Regina Pacis (detail) - Rome|
The words of our first reading greet our Christmas celebration with a song of joyful praise about the coming of the Lord in the flesh. Here the prophet Isaiah describes the world redeemed by the coming of the new-born King and lists a number character features for this child on whom authority and divinity rest – he is the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, and Everlasting Father, and importantly, he is also the sole and undiscussed Prince of Peace. He is the one who lifts the heavy yoke from the shoulders of his people – the burden of worries and strife we each carry – and because of his coming into the world families and nations will cease war forever. Similarly, our gospel reading reports the song the angels sang at the birth of Jesus, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ With this the heavenly messengers announced that the Lord’s birth would usher is an age of peace for his people and for the human family.
Yet, as we all know first-hand, conflicts, resentments, and trouble are far from gone. Indeed, sometimes it may even feel that all these words about peace on earth and goodwill to men, are just empty stories we tell each other at Christmas and then forget just in time for the star of the new year. 2016 alone has witnessed much violence, the mindless cruelty of terrorism, the oppression of civil liberties masked by dictatorial regimes as liberation, and the resurgence of xenophobic hate. So what has this child actually brought to us? And how can his coming redeem the world? Has he come to impose peace on us as the dictators do by quashing all their opponents? Has he come to bring us material gifts? No, the child of Bethlehem come to us, poor, homeless and harmless, wrapped in even poorer clothing to be himself our peace and to be our model – so that in embracing him and learning from him we might be filled with true joy, and extend his peace to the whole world.
But I say more, the child of Bethlehem comes to us, as we read in our second reading, to ‘train us’ and to make us ‘zealous for good deeds’, so that in following his model we may learn to live not for ourselves, but for God’s glory, doing good works. On this holy night God reaches out to us with the outstretched hand of a new-born baby boy. He is the Wonderful Counsellor, and in him we find the only guidance for our lives worth listening to; he is the Mighty God, and in him we see the image of God the Father, who loved each and every one of us before the ages begun; he is the Prince of Peace, and in him we find our peace. In short, in this most holy child we find the only true joy for our today and the only hope for our tomorrow.
May you discover joy of knowing Christ in your life; and in knowing it may you share it with others through acts of service and self-less love; this is my Christmas wish for you. Then, the Prince of Peace will indeed reign in your hearts, bringing a peace that no worry or anxiety will ever be able to shake.