Church and Peace Christmas letter 2004
Do not be afraid!
The 21st century began under the sign of terror, and various governments' determination to defeat this terror with wars of unprecedented brutality have caused entire populations to live in a permanent state of fear. Asymmetrical schemes of powers armed to the teeth on one side and elusive networks of fanatical warriors ready to take their enemies with them to the grave on the other become more and more frequent. And fear takes root. Trips are cancelled, borders are closed, terror alerts are issued, the most courageous NGOs end up evacuating their staff from dangerous areas and renouncing their support for the most vulnerable. A climate of fear that borders on the irrational is carefully nourished in the general population. The nightmare those are experiencing who are forced to pay the cost of "security" with their health and lives is, itself, very real.
Beginning with the words of the angels announcing the Nativity - "Do not be afraid!" (Luke 2:10) - to those of Jesus after the Resurrection - "Peace be with you." (John 20:19-23) -, the Gospels in their entirety bring a different message: one that speaks out against fear and that invites us to live "differently" in order to overcome fear.
Jesus comes. He is present among his followers. The time of waiting that is Advent is entirely focused on this coming. The Gospels testify to the upheaval that this coming caused in the lives of those whom Jesus encountered. The Gospel of John describes how, on the evening following the Resurrection, "he came". His coming at the end of time is also foretold. And of course there are Jesus' own words: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am also."
Jesus brings peace that surpasses all understanding. "Peace on earth", proclaim the angels to the shepherds. "Peace be with you", Jesus said to his disciples the evening following the Resurrection. The peace which Jesus gives is not the "security" that follows Mr. Bush's military campaigns nor that which Mr. Sharon imagines to ensure with a wall that separates children from their schools. It is not cheap peace, but rather peace whose path leads through confrontation with injustice, conflict and - ultimately - suffering. When Jesus greets the disciples with a sign of peace on the evening following the Resurrection, he shows them his hands and side, pierced on the cross. The resurrection has not erased these marks of what he has suffered for humanity. The peace which Jesus gives comes from a merciful God who gave his own life for humanity. It is an inner peace and peace with one's neighbour; it is peace with justice: the gift of pardon and the responsibility to share prosperity.
Jesus sent out his followers with a message of deliverance. The shepherds did not keep for themselves the message from the angels. Throughout the Gospels we find the commandment to go out, announce the good news, proclaim the message! On the evening following the Resurrection, Jesus charges his disciples with a mission of liberation that is none other than his own mission: "As my Father sent me, so I send you!".
This is the answer of the One we await to the fear so present today: he comes to us, he gives us his peace, he puts us to work. We wish each of you God's blessing on your journey as you testify for peace with your words and actions, and struggle in the spirit of Jesus Christ against fear.
In Christ's peace,
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke, Terri Miller
Church and Peace International Office