by Alexei Laushkin
In the coming days we will celebrate the birth of our Savior. There are few songs more poignant to the Season than “Silent Night” and if we’re lucky we may get an add in with these lines:
peace, peace, peace on earth and good will to all
this is a time for joy
this is a time for love
now let us all sing together
of peace, peace, peace on earth
Sometimes these words are an aspirational prayer, especially when peace feels far off.
This year when I sing these lines, I’ll remember our brothers and sisters facing persecution in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt, and throughout the world. Christmas, like Easter, given its public nature, has become a time of increased violence, targeting, and death in these lands.
For too many of our brothers and sisters this year, Christmas will be a dangerous act of celebration.
Just this last Sunday two suicide bombers entered a Church in Pakistan and killed over eight people, wounding 30 others. In India’s Madhya Pradesh region 32 Catholic Seminarians were arrested for going around to sing Christmas Carols. Christians throughout India are increasingly being harassed, beaten, and in some instances killed as a deadly and abusive form of Hindu nationalism takes greater hold. Extremist violence has been so continually in Egypt this year that over 200,000 security forces will be deployed for Christmas to help protect over 2,000 Coptic Churches.
I’ll also offer a word of thanksgiving for the many Muslim peacemakers, who are protecting Christians, alerting the authorities to attacks (as happened in Indonesia recently), and trying to make Christians feel welcome even when under threat (like these Muslim youth who are helping to rebuild a church in Mosul).
Christ Our Peace in Troubling Times
As we look towards the end of the year, we can see major challenges on the horizon. Our world is closer to nuclear conflict that it has been in my lifetime. Our nation is fractured and bitter, looking to dismantle many of the social safety net protections that have been a guiding post for how we as a society support our neighbors in need. Our country has become more antagonistic to the immigrant, has begun to slow the flow of the refugee, and as a result of our fractured-ness there are new threats to religious liberty as we seek to dominate one other using the law.
For the Christian, Christ is our peace, He has caused all oppression to cease in the heart of the believer, we do not have to fear, we can march boldly forward in the face of violence, doubt, and injustice, because Christ is our sufficient peace. This is something that we can learn more than ever before. Troubled times gives us an opportunity to go deeper into our faith as we let our hearts be open to what troubles God.
When we are troubled by what troubles Christ, we can be certain that He provides and comforts us as we trust Him. We do not have to distrust others, but we can proclaim with boldness the Christ who is the King, whose very nature is peace. This confidence builds with time, but starts with a simple act of prayer and humility.
It’s a prayer as simple as: “I don’t know what to do Lord or what’s coming, but I trust you, help me in my doubt to trust you more.”
Christmas and The Nature of God’s Kingdom
In such a time as we inhabit, Christmas is a powerful reminder of the very nature of God. Here is Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father born to us in humble circumstances.
This is the Christ who will exercise dominion in the lives of His people. Whose Kingdom is not of this world, but whose Kingdom reigns in justice and righteousness. The Kingdom of God is a reminder, a signpost by which our kingdoms and lives and nations are judged.
We should not suppose that the Kingdom of God does not speak to how we should govern, instead we should remember that Christ is King, and while sin and sorrow and strife limit and inhibit our ability to actualize on earth what is already true in heaven, this aspect of life should remind us that God has standards by which we are all judged and a Kingdom which is not ephemeral but which embodies and shows the way for all people and all nations.
While we don’t necessarily know every piece of what such a Kingdom is like, we do know how it is governed and we know generally the sort of human flourishing that it holds for all people.
This baby born in Bethlehem is a sign to all of us, a sign of peace and hope, a sign of justice, and the overturning of evil, half-heartedness, and wickedness and in a very real way this baby is the embodiment of that victory incarnate.
As Christians such a truth should remind us to pray, to speak out clearly and with integrity when dark forces seek to tear apart the inner fabric of nations, and recommit ourselves to the way of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in a time that can seem a bit bleak, but within a Kingdom that has seen God’s people through many bleak moments in the life of people on earth.
This is Christmas, let us focus on its meaning and ponder its implications for all.
Alexei Laushkin is the Executive Director of Kingdom Mission Society.