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The price of a Prince of Peace

| Thursday, December 3, 2015

It’s a strange time for Christmas. Of course, it’s happened every December for a while now, but looking around at our country and our world, it’s a strange time for “the most wonderful time Of the year.” We’ve gotten our fill of Thanksgiving delights, but somehow we’re more ravenous than ever, with Secret Santas and stockings and Christmas lists and coupons calling us into malls or online to stock up for the season — all the demands of a good old American Yuletide.

But there’s more than the usual carnage: violence exploding across east and west, peppering our homeland with gunshots and our own campuses with hate speech on whiteboards and Yik Yak. Political disagreements degenerating into darkly amusing chaos. Ideologies clawing at each other’s throats. Prejudice and privilege brooding dark and unexamined, fear and anger crippling even the most generous and good-hearted.

It’s a strange time for Christmas, but perhaps the best possible time for it.

The intense commerciality of Christmas has certainly — and understandably — given it a bit of a bad rap among Christians and members of other faiths alike. A holiday that touts “joy” and “peace on Earth” while simultaneously encouraging greed to the point of senselessness (remember the Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death by rabid Black Friday shoppers in 2008) is hypocritical, shallow and grossly degraded at best.

But whether or not you’re a Christian, there’s something attractive about giving and receiving, putting up lights and decorations, singing songs that all your neighbors know, making your favorite meals and spending special time with family and friends. And there’s something beautiful about the point of Christmas that everyone can share. Whether it’s Scripture for you or just a story, the simple message of Christmas is desperately, hauntingly lovely. It’s about hope. Hope, and the coming of the Prince of Peace.

The world sorely needs a Prince of Peace. You can argue that we’ve always needed one, but right now, well, we actually want one. We want someone who’s going to stop the gun violence. Someone who will end sexual assault on campus. Someone who will take care of the refugees. Someone who will keep so many people from hurting so badly.

We need as many Princes of Peace as we can count. So who’s going to show up? Who’s going to come into the world this winter and say, “Yes, I’m with you”?

Who else but us?

It takes a lot of courage to be born. It’s a passive thing. It happens to you. You must let yourself be changed. It takes trust and hope and refusing to fight (something babies are naturally good at). It is so hard to even think in those terms when we have so much to be afraid of across oceans or across the street. But if what we want is peace, we must – like any Christmas present – pay a price. And the price is our own fear.

Maybe this Christmas we can reconnect with our desire for peace. It’s a good thing to want. Not just for Christians or Americans or holiday-lovers, but for everyone. Getting in touch with what we want shows us who we are, and who we must become (there’s some logic behind the Christmas list after all). And if we look at what we want for ourselves, our families and our futures, we’ll find some fruit there. We’ll see what we need to do. We’ll discover how, in our individual ways, to be the Prince of Peace.

If we want to feel safer in our neighborhoods, let’s look out for our neighbors. If we want an end to the refugee crisis, let’s be generous with our money and our advocacy to provide the hope we crave to the people who need it most. If we want a Christmas without greed and consumerism, let’s focus our time and energy on sustaining our relationships, our planet and the poor in our communities.

If we want something, let’s write it on our Christmas lists and be willing to pay for it by letting go of what makes us fear each other, mistrust each other and misunderstand each other. It will feel a bit like “dying to self.” But it’s really about being born. And that’s what Christmas is about. For everyone.

Choose peace and hope this holiday. Choose to be born.

Merry Christmas.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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