Peace on Earth

Dear Friends in Christ,

Over the Thanksgiving break, I heard about fights breaking out in stores as shoppers vied to get the best deals on merchandise on so-called “Black Friday.” Below are two excerpts, one locally in the Kinston area of Eastern Carolina, and the other from across the country in California:

Kinston, North Carolina, United States, AD 2011:

People waiting in line at the Kinston Walmart quickly found themselves covering their face after police shot pepper-spray into the air…“He was raining [pepper spray] over the whole crowd so that it would rain down on their heads. Some got on my granddaughter. When I was doing that kind of work, we would have never done that, not in a store like that,” said Jackson...Though Jackson was charged with disorderly conduct, cell phone video shot shortly after the crowd was pepper-sprayed shows Jackson being anything but disorderly.

http://www2.wnct.com/news/2011/nov/25/3/pepper-spray-used-kinston-wal-mart-ar-1645712/

Los Angeles, California, United States, AD 2011:

Los Angeles police Saturday said they have not yet decided whether to seek charges against a woman who doused a crowd of Thanksgiving night shoppers with pepper spray at a Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch…

Investigators declined to speculate Saturday whether the woman, described only as a Latina in her 30s, brandished the spray because she felt threatened by the crowd of jostling shoppers or to gain an advantage so she could grab an Xbox game console that was on sale.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/11/lapd-no-decision-yet-on-charges-in-walmart-pepper-spraying.html

Black Friday is the start to the Christmas shopping season, so presumably some of those who were engaged in disorderly conduct were attempting to purchase gifts, although there were undoubtedly many there seeking cheap deals for their own wants. For a refresher, let’s take a look at what happened on the first Christmas Day, over 2000 years ago:

Bethlehem, Judea, Roman Empire, AD 1:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth be peace. Today doth Bethlehem receive Him Who sitteth with the Father forever. Today the angels glorify, as worthy of God, the babe that is born, shouting, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth be peace, and goodwill among men.

Since Thou art the God of peace and the Father of mercies, O Lover of mankind, Thou didst send to us the great Messenger of Thy mind, granting us Thy peace. Therefore, have we been led aright to the light of divine knowledge, glorifying Thee as we come out of darkness.

—Hymns from the Orthodox Service of the Nativity of Christ

God became man—a baby, at that—as an act of utter condescension, in order to bring peace, mercy, and light to us humans. And yet some of us celebrate His birth by disturbing the peace of those around us and showing no mercy to others. While I do believe that things are gradually getting worse in our society, I also know that the seeds of this rebellion were planted in previous generations; while perhaps less frequent, there have always been instances of humans mistreating each other for such petty reasons.

In fact, all humans harbor sinful passions which, left unchecked, give birth to sin, and lead to death. We cannot solve this problem ourselves, but must be born again of water and the spirit, and put on Christ, in order to experience the light, peace, and mercy that he offers. We can’t rely on being “spiritual” or being “a good person” because even good, spiritual people have committed sins which separate them from God’s peace and from their fellow humans. The answer lies outside of ourselves. This also means that we can’t do it from the comfort of our own home, as salvation occurs in community, not in isolation.

This Christmas season, let’s take a serious look at Christ on His own terms, and if we see that our lives do not reveal His presence, let us give ourselves over to Him without reservation. If you are not sure how to make this happen, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you have not attended our Church previously, we will be happy to welcome you on your first visit.

In Christ,
Fr. Anastasios