Christmas greetings 2006

…on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.

From years gone by I recall the caption on the editorial cartoon by the well-known Finnish artist Kari Suomalainen, “We are having a peaceful Christmastime – charging full speed ahead!”

It is no accident that one of the most common Christmas greetings is, “A peaceful Christmas to you!” We wish that Christmas would be the opposite of the hurry of everything else in our lives.

It is a fact of life that among men and on earth to a great extent there is only unrest. Life is full of hustle and bustle, squabbling and scuffling, strife and sorrow, war and oppression. This is the reason why we long for a peaceful Christmas, in our homes and in the world.

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In St Luke’s Christmas gospel the angels sing, “on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

Is the angelic song merely a wish or is it a proclamation? Do the angels hope that quarrelsome people would begin the building of peace? Or do they declare that on earth “he”, that is, God, has bestowed peace, which is otherwise lacking?

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The message of the angels includes both of these aspects. First of all, it is a declaration of the fact that the birth of Jesus has in itself brought peace on earth.  Christ is the Prince of Peace and even today he works peace among men.

As the angels say “peace on earth”, they indeed pronounce an established reality, not a wish. Peace has come. As the glory of God is true in the highest, so is peace true on earth. The birth of the Saviour has already brought the peace of God to the world.

The peace of God is given free. Peace is the gift of the Child of Christmas to men “on earth”, yes, to the whole of humankind. We too can receive the good gift of Christmas, divine peace into our hearts.

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Secondly, the message of the angels is a wish that peace might reign among men. The angels know that peace calls for effort. The task is incomplete. The angels’ song is an exhortation, even a commandment, first to the shepherds of Bethlehem and then to all of us. Everything we do on earth must promote peace.

The peace of God is not only a gift but also a task.

During the Christmas season it is proper to think about the responsibilities the peace of God calls us to – at home, at work and in the political sphere. The peace of God leads us to tranquillity and repose. And as the gift makes the mind joyful, divine peace brings about peace among men.

May you have a Peaceful Christmas!

Eero Huovinen