CHRISTMAS EVE - this is the night when God was born into our joy and suffering. A most amazing event - Emmanuel - God with us.
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
There is something about the language of the King James Version for this reading. Maybe it is because it is the most familiar language from my earliest hearing of this story. I hear "And it came to pass...." and I am hooked. This year the line that jumped out for me is the angels saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (of course this is from the days when men was an inclusive word meaning all humankind) "Will" is not used in all the translations - often it reads "peace among those on whom God's favor rests." The Greek word "eudokia" has a range of meaning - delight, satisfaction, good pleasure, kindness, wish, purpose. That God has Good Will toward us is at the heart of the Christmas story. God cares and delights in us to such a degree that God comes among us helpless and naked, trusting us with Godself. Who among us does not delight in babies. Well, maybe not at 3 a.m. when we cannot satisfy and calm them and we have been up for a week of nights - but still we intend good will toward them. God is teaching us in Jesus how we are to be towards one another. Think about the person with whom you are having the most difficulty, think about them as a helpless baby - smiling and gurgling at you. It is hard to continue to have ill will in such a moment. Good will is easy when we are in that frame of mind. I am not saying that we should be silly and let a person continue to abuse us or put ourselves in danger, but I am saying we can let go of the feelings that harm us and act from wisdom instead of revenge.
If we are able to do this with those we know - can we do it towards those we do not know - on a global scale? Good will is not a feeling - it is a decision, a choice. I choose to have your best interest at heart. I act out of what will be best for all of us. I let go of my scarcity thinking and act out of abundance - abundance of love, abundance of all that is really needed for life. I don't pour my kerosene into the water system, I take care of the earth - the only place we have. I act with good intention toward all - not out of hatred, or reaction to my prejudice. What would the world be like if we all could act with good will?
We might just have peace on earth. The angels have it right but it won't happen just because they say it. It will happen because we take up the message and make it happen. Tonight and this week practice Good Will towards all whom you meet. When you read about some terrible thing - pray for the people involved. When you hear some bit of gossip - think tenderly of those involved. There are many ways to practice Good Will - you will think of many more as it becomes a habit. Make this your resolution for an hour, a day, a year. Follow the newborn Christ, come and see.
Open our eyes that we may see the needs of others;
Open our ears that we may hear their cries;
Open our hearts that we may feel their anguish and their joy.
Let us not be afraid to defend the oppressed, the poor, the powerless,
because of the anger and might of the powerful.
Show us where love and hope and faith are needed, and use us to bring them to those places.
Open our ears and eyes, our hearts and lives, that we may in these coming
days be able to do some work of justice and peace for you. Amen.
From The Episcopal Peace Fellowship