Christmas Message from Bishop Mouneer
Christmas is always linked with peace, at the day Christ was born the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14).
800 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah prophesied about Christ: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). “The Prince of Peace” is how Isaiah described Christ who is coming to our world. In the same way, Zechariah the High Priest prophesied about Christ saying he will “shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79).
When Jesus came, he said to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). On his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). He also instructed his disciples that their message to the people should be a message of peace. This was clear in his saying, “When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” (Luke 10:5).
However, some may ask, “where is this peace?” Is it possible to sing today, as did the angels at the first Christmas: “on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests”? These questions are reasonable because the world where we live now is characterized by wars and conflicts. This is particularly clear in the Middle East where we live. Every day we hear about explosions, killings, the shedding of blood… Where is this peace of Christ, the Prince of Peace?
Before I try to answer this question, let us first think of the meaning of the word “peace.” Some define peace as a state of no-war and no-conflict. Others define peace as a state of wholeness, especially in regard to relationships. There are also different types of peace: peace between countries, peace between the people of a society, inner peace, and peace with God.
Peace with God can be achieved when a person has an intimate relation with God and when there is no separation, like sin, between us and God, similar to the sin of Adam and Eve that separated them from God. In my opinion, peace with God is the main source of inner peace, peace of a society, and peace between different countries. The person whose heart is distant from God, and I say whose heart because one can be close to God outwardly in front of people but the heart can be far away from God. Such a person cannot experience the inner peace and as a consequence of this, such person cannot be in peace with others. This in return has its impact on the whole society. Jesus Christ came to demolish all barriers between us and God. He came to reconcile us to God as our sins separated us from Him. That is why he is truly the Prince of Peace.
The Apostle Paul says “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:13-18).
Jesus Christ came in a form of a human in order to pay the wage of our sins on the cross and reconcile us to God. As a result of this reconciliation, peace with God is achieved. This reconciliation is not limited to a nation, or a specific people, but in Christ it is available for the whole world, for all who believe. The Apostle Paul says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
In his speech on the occasion of receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace Former President Carter said: I worship Jesus Christ, whom we Christians consider to be the Prince of Peace. As a Jew, he taught us to cross religious boundaries in service and in love. He repeatedly reached out and embraced our Roman conquerors, other Gentiles and even the more-despised Samaritans.
My beloved… as we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Prince of Peace, if we want to experience true peace with God, we ought to open our hearts to Him and believe the work of redemption and reconciliation which Jesus Christ completed on the cross.
If we already have experienced this peace, we ought to be ambassadors for Christ in the society where we live. As ambassadors, we ought to carry the message of peace and reconciliation that is in Christ, for the whole world around us. As the Apostle Paul said, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Indeed the message of the church should be: be reconciled to God! And we must exert every effort in order to make peace in our country.
My beloved… at the birthday of the Prince of Peace we ought to pray for our beloved country Egypt and our great people in order for real peace to prevail and for violence and terrorism to cease. Let us also pray for the people of our region who suffer from tension and instability.
May God fill our hearts with the peace that Jesus Christ gives, so that we can sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”