Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 27th December 2020.
I last gave a reflection on peace on 10 May 2020. The subject came back to my mind this week. Perhaps what sparked it was hearing the well-known quotation from Luke 2:14, which we often to hear at this time of the year: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” These were the words of the angel who visited the shepherds to tell them of the birth of the Messiah.
The events of this past year seem to have militated against peace and goodwill, such as the pandemic and the knock-on effects of it; the struggle to reach an amicable agreement over Brexit; lorries queueing at Dover; and unrest in many parts of the world, such as Hong Kong.
There has been much resentment and bad feeling in many quarters about the Government restrictions designed to prevent the spread of the pandemic. This has been exacerbated by the regional Governments of the UK being unable to agree on a consistent approach to the pandemic, and consequent confusion as to what the rules are in any given area, thus causing confusion to the populace and driving down goodwill towards Government. But I must stop being political!
Peace on earth seems to be a desirable end, but not a factual reality in many parts of the world. There is still much conflict around the world between and within nations; and the Christian Church continues to be persecuted in many countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East; and of course the restrictions on our freedoms due to the pandemic have militated against personal peace.
So where, people may ask, is the peace which the angel speaks of in all of this? I shall come back to this, but for a moment a brief word about a sixteenth century priest and theologian, the Rev. Richard Hooker. (Stay with me!)
Richard Hooker believed (to put it in very simple terms) that the foundations of the Christian faith are scripture, tradition and reason. Firstly, scripture is paramount, if unambiguous. Secondly, in the case of the scriptures being ambiguous on any aspect of our faith, we rely on traditional teaching handed down over the centuries. And thirdly, human reason needs to be employed, if both scripture and tradition need clarification or fail to cover some new circumstance. So imagine a three-legged stool – if one leg is missing, it can’t work properly.
To return to the subject of peace, it seems to me that peace starts in the heart of each individual. It depends upon another three-legged stool analogy: peace with God, peace with our neighbour and peace within ourselves. If one of those three is missing, then there can be no real peace.
Isaiah prophesied the coming of a Messiah, who would bring peace to the world. And Isaiah referred to the Messiah as ‘the Prince of Peace’. 2000 years ago, God sent His Son Jesus to the world to bring peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. And the reason why he is so-called is not because he stops wars, but because he brings personal peace to all who turn to him. In the most difficult times in our lives – and this year has presented us with a few – he is always there to offer us some personal, inner peace.
This week we have celebrated the coming of the Prince of Peace. I do hope that you have been able to forget for a while the worries and problems of the outside world and find some inner peace. Some of you may have spent time with one or more members of your family, and have been able to forget for a while the cares of the world. But some may have had to spend Christmas alone. For those who have had to do so, I hope that you have been able to find peace through your faith in the Prince of Peace, who came to the world, not as a mighty warrior, but as a little babe, whose short life would change the world.
Peace is one of those things that we can find, if we seek it. Peace is not based on the satisfying material desires, but on seeking inner contentment, whatever our situation. I hope that you have been able to find some peace and contentment over this Christmas period, even if you have had to spend it on your own. And I wish all of you reading this a very happy and peaceful New Year.
‘ … may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.’ (2 Thessalonians 3:16)