Spirited Reflection: Celebrating advent, peace and International Human Rights
“O Come, o come, Emmanuel – fill the world with heaven’s peace.” These words come from the well-known advent hymn based on the ancient liturgical “O Antiphons.” The scriptures Isaiah 11:1-9, Matthew 3:1-17 support this Advent Peace theme. The reading from Isaiah contains one of several biblical descriptions of the “Peaceable Kingdom: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the calf and the lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. For the earth will be full of the knowledge God.” We also read a gospel passage about the work of John the Baptizer who administered a ritual of reconciliation, meant to make things right between God and humanity. Jesus insisted on participating in this baptismal ritual, representing us all, provoking God’s pleasure expressed in the voice from heaven, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased”.
Would we were all like Jesus! Christians believe this is God’s will for us. The more we become like Jesus, the more there will be peace on earth, goodwill to all. We know what Jesus stood for, what Jesus worked for: Jesus honoured the value and dignity of every human creature. Therefore we stand for this as well and, for example, we observe International Human Rights Day (Dec 10th); we write our signatures on petitions for human rights. Jesus cared about people struggling with poverty, loneliness, illness. Therefore we care as well and we give to our local Food Pantry, we serve meals in our Out-of-the-Cold program, we take poinsettias to those who are homebound, we send gifts with vision to disadvantaged persons around the world.
Peace on earth, goodwill to all. That is our vision, our mandate, our reason for being as Christians in this world of ours. And it all starts with the birth of a peasant baby in a cattle-shed on the outskirts of a little town; a great and incredible mystery!
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the calf and the lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. For the earth will be full of the knowledge God.” Peace on earth, goodwill to all. So be it.
Eternal God of love and justice, you keep breaking into our lives with your reign of peace and you call us to be awake to the moments of your Advent among us. We give thanks that you have come and keep coming to reign among us in Christ, Emmanuel.
Loving God, as we enjoy the beauty of nature, Christmas poinsettias, trees, forests, we give thanks for the memory of loved ones and their contribution to our lives and to the world in which we live.
Merciful God, help us prepare for the outbreak of your presence in the coming of the Christ child. May Christmas in our homes, congregations, communities be filled with joy and commitment to your Reign of Peace and Love. Grant us the peace that comes in following your ways, in opening our lives to you, and sharing our gifts for your sake.
Emmanuel, God with us, you hold the key to abundant life and happiness; and you give us the power to be agents of peace and goodwill. We pray for the world in which we live.
God of Justice and compassion, we pray for the honouring of human rights as we observe International Human Rights Day this week. We pray for the work of organizations throughout our communities and the world dedicated to human rights, social justice, peace and good health.
Good God, we pray for a Christmas that will be a genuine celebration and proclamation of the good news of your Reign of Love, bringing light, and healing, and peace.
Help us, dear God to be people of faith, living with respect in Creation, loving and serving others, seeking justice and resisting evil, and thereby proclaiming Jesus, crucified and risen, now and forever.
Hans van Nie is a seasoned United Church Minister serving at Royal York Road United Church in Toronto. His education in Religious Studies, Music and Scripture Studies led him to teaching in a small divinity school in Kenya for several years. Upon returning to Canada and following ordination, Hans served congregations in Maritime Conference, Hamilton Conference, and Toronto Conference. Over the years, Hans has maintained a connection with global ministries, has also been a member/investor in the global banking cooperative Oikocredit, serving on its International Members’ Council.