Rev Les Isaac OBE shares that, amidst the turmoil, conflict and troubles throughout the world, the birth of Christ and message of Christmas still represent peace and hope for all
Across the world, this year, as every year, we will hear the words recorded in Luke 2:8-14 that paint a picture of peace: shepherds in the quiet of night, tending their flocks; the tranquil stable, with visitors surrounding the Christ Child; and even the disruption that the angels’ appearance creates, bringing the assurance that all is indeed well – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV).
Yet globally, today, it would appear we are far from the reality of any such peace among humanity. There are major conflicts and the loss of life in countries such as Myanmar, Israel and Palestine; several African countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan and Ethiopia; Russia and Ukraine; Asia; Haiti; and North America. Whether these conflicts are due to countries fighting countries or to internal conflicts – such as the all-too-commonplace shootings in public places and schools in North America – we cannot escape the fact that thousands have died over the years and, sadly, many more thousands will die as tensions and crises continue.
Even in our own country, the United Kingdom, countless numbers of young people have been killed on our streets, causing immeasurable trauma, pain, grief and sorrow to so many families and communities. No doubt the pain and grief are just as dire for the millions of people around the world, who are living in the midst of chaos and catastrophe, the magnitude of which we can only surmise when we see the amount of conflict, death and destruction being portrayed through the media.
As I witness all this, it makes me ask the question: Was the announcement of peace only for the moment of the birth of Jesus, or is it for people today as well?I believe the answer is a resounding yes! That peace is for us all – today, tomorrow and till the end of time!
Over the past few years, many of us have had to put a limit on the amount of news we consume, because we are trying to manage our stress, anxiety and trauma levels. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, since research shows that the fear, anxiety and traumatic stress from the onslaught of violent daily news, such as emanates from the Middle East, can have long-term negative effects on the health and well-being of those watching the war from afar. But is there anything else we can do to cope with all the trauma and stress? Other approaches would be useful, since we cannot indefinitely bury our heads in the proverbial sand and pretend nothing is happening.
How to cope with traumatic stress
Psychologists recommend that people lean on loved ones for support; prioritise self-care; and be patient with themselves, as ways of helping to manage the stressful effects of trauma. This is sage advice, as people with strong family and other support networks can testify. However, even more help may be needed when one considers that even those who are being leant on for support may be struggling themselves.
In the Luke 2 passage mentioned above, the angel was not only making an announcement for that time but was also issuing a proclamation that Peace and Hope were entering this world and would be present and available to all men and to all generations. This, notwithstanding turbulent times.
The dichotomy of peace alongside trouble is echoed in the following verses from John’s Gospel: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 NKJV), and further in John 16:33 (NIV): “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In order to maintain the reality of such peace, Luke keeps the focus on Heaven. He stresses the supernatural birth of Jesus, involvement of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of prayer.
He wants us to remember that God’s Spirit is at work in every generation and that it is important for us to pray as we allow God to work in us to do His will.
Luke’s Gospel also reminds us that God has people from all nations whom He intends to bring into Heaven, hence the “good tidings of great joy…to all people” (Luke 2:10 NKJV). Indeed, Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world.
This Christmas, may we remember that Jesus is with us, not just for this season, but always. His promise is that He will never leave nor forsake us, but that He will be with us until He either calls us home or returns for us.
Rev Les Isaac OBE is Founder and President of the Ascension Trust. Visit www.ascensiontrust.org.uk