"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Lk 2:10–14 (KJV).
Printed on Christmas cards or emblazoned on billboards, the proclamation of “peace on earth and goodwill to all” is one that we often see at Christmas time. These few short words sum up for many the feelings that are synonymous with Christmas. The sense of hope, generosity and kindness toward others.
But really, "peace on earth",
this is not the reality for many.
Think about the conflicts around the world over the last year that have been in our news feeds and on our media streams.
For me, three countries that have not experienced peace this last year come to mind.
1. Afghanistan remains an extremely volatile and fragile country. Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 2021, the humanitarian crisis has continued to worsen. According to the United Nations, nearly 19 million people – half the population – suffer from extreme hunger. Many Afghan people are affected by poverty, violence and injustice that is now prevalent in the country. In addition to these challenges, the country has been impacted by repeated natural disasters including floods, landslides, earthquakes, and drought.
2. Ukraine was invaded by Russian troops in early 2022. There is no end in sight to the war that is raging in the country meaning that millions of Ukrainians are facing a tough winter. It has been estimated that over 200000 soldiers have been killed or wounded, and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. Many millions more have been displaced and are facing freezing winter conditions after being forced to flee their homes. Critical infrastructure has been damaged, leaving families without food, safe water, electricity, healthcare, education, and protection from violence.
3. Syria continues to experience civil conflict. The Syrian civil war has decimated the country for more than a decade and provoked a significant humanitarian crisis. The death toll is estimated to be as high as 400000 people, and around 7 million people have been displaced within Syria, and nearly the same number have fled to neighbouring countries and beyond. The Syrian crisis is one of the world’s largest refugee crises with more than a quarter of the world’s refugee population being people displaced in the wake of the Syrian conflict. Of those remaining inside Syria, there are millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance, and it is estimated that four of five Syrians now live below the poverty line.
These conflicts take away peace, and it is one of the leading causes of hunger and poverty in these countries. Peace seems so far away for these people.
This Christmas season, it is important to remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He came to establish a basis for peace with God and to offer peace to individuals of all nations. The incarnation reminds us that Jesus came to earth as a human being, to bring peace to the entire human race. And while we do not see that fully expressed today, Jesus does offer peace to everyone that believes in Him. The New Testament is clear in its claims that He will come a second time to bring ultimate peace to the earth. According to the apostle Paul, the coming of Christ produced a peace unknown to man since Adam’s sin. It is rooted in the saving mission of God. Paul wrote:
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Co 5:19 (NASB).
This peace changes us from enemies of God into children of God. The Prince of Peace has brought to us the opportunity to have peace with God.
So this Christmas, can I encourage you to pray for peace? Pray for peace in those parts of the world that are experiencing war and conflict. Countries like Afghanistan, the Ukraine and Syria. Pray for the leaders in these countries that they may find a way for peace to prevail. And pray for the individuals in those countries that are suffering from the effects of war and conflict. Pray for their physical well-being, for provision for food and for good health, and a safe place to live. And importantly pray for their spiritual well-being. May they experience the peace of God this Christmas.
And can I also encourage you to give? We have partners working in these countries that can use our financial support as they support those in need. GCAid has projects designed to support those in need. Gifts channelled through GC Aid help provide for the needs of these people. Please consider making a contribution to GC Aid, go to https://www.gc3.org.nz/donate/ for giving instructions. And remember, a gift to GC Aid will qualify for tax credits in personal tax returns.