4th Week of Advent: Signs of Peace

The light shining in the darkness, that cannot be overcomeramadan-prayers-4-version-2

Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25

The lessons for this Sunday describe signs of God that appear in the midst of everyday life. Joseph was an example of faithfulness, even when the signs he perceived were unclear, even mysterious. When we have been “fed with the bread of tears,” scorned and ridiculed, we long to be restored by God.

Jesus is the image or sign of God in human life, and leads us to God’s vision of oneness of all people. So our hope is strengthened when we see God or the divine in those with whom we differ or even in those who persecute us! With the belief that all humankind was created in the image of God, deep respect for all people becomes reflexive.

It always encourages me to remember when, a few weeks after September 11th, 2001, I was privileged to serve as a member of a World Council of Churches delegation of seven persons called the “Living Letters.” Gathering with faith leaders at Ground Zero in New York City, I experienced there the same awareness of hope despite woundedness and destruction that I often experience at home. People spoke very movingly. Their words energized me and their witness gave me hope.

We heard from people who were committed to standing outside mosques so that Muslims might pray without fear. Some Quakers opened their Meetinghouses for Muslims to hold their prayers. Many accompanied their Muslim neighbors to supermarkets and other public places so that they would not become victims of hate crimes. There was a pastor who was assisting as a hospital chaplain, who said, “I spent so many hours comforting the wounded and their families, embracing their children, and then it dawned on me: ‘Why did I never think of embracing the dying children of Iraq?’”

In spite of the grief and pain of that place and time, people were committed to looking deeper, looking more widely and beyond perceived borders. They were committed to affirming life and hope, to deepening their commitment to work for peace, justice, and the understanding of others.

Despite the current Israeli government’s policies, no degree of violence can succeed in subjugating the will of a people or destroying their spirit when they are struggling for their freedom, dignity, and the right to sovereignty on their own land. Israeli attempts at intensifying the brutality of the occupation against the Palestinians have only led to the escalation of the conflict and increased our determination to gain our liberty.

This is our sign of peace. That is, “the light shining in the darkness, that cannot be overcome.”

Queries

When have you been “fed with the bread of tears?”

What have been the times in your life that encouraged you to deepen and broaden your commitment to peace?

-Jean Zaru, ed. Helene Pollock

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