I have been enjoying this Christmas season: the carols, the movies, the Sub for Santa, thinking and finding the "right" gift for those important people in my life, and even the prospect of snow. Christmas, despite its busyness, has a sense of quiet, a sense of peace, and a sense of hope. The birth of a child often brings those feelings, and the birth of the Christ Child is no different.
However, as we celebrate a birth heralded by choirs of angels, Wise Men from the East, and Shepherds, that joy and enthusiasm points directly toward the end of Christ's journey, to suffering in Gethsemane, to death on the cross, and to rising again at the Garden Tomb. It struck me, that whenever we speak of or think of Christmas, whenever we proclaim Merry Christmas, what we are really asking is for the totality of the teachings and the life of Christ to become reality within us. Merry Christmas doesn't just mean "Silent Night" and "Angels We Have Heard on High." Merry Christmas means:
All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:
Fear not; believe only.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
This last teaching, to love your enemies, this is probably the most difficult of all. And yet, the command was not just an academic exercise: Do as I say, not as I do. No, it was exemplified by Jesus at the very moment it would have been most difficult to do. No one has captured this better than Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From a collection of his sermons, The Strength to Love, he says:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
We shall not fully understand the great meaning of Jesus' prayer unless we first notice that the text opens with the word 'then.' The verse immediately preceding reads thus: 'And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.' Then said Jesus, ' Father, forgive them.'
Then--when he was being plunged into the abyss of nagging agony. Then--when man had stooped to his worst. Then--when he was dying, a most ignominious death. Then--when the wicked hands of the creature had dared to crucify the only begotten Son of the Creator. Then said Jesus, ' Father, forgive them.' That 'then' might well have been otherwise. He could have said, 'Father, get even with them,' or 'Father, let loose the mighty thunderbolts of righteous wrath and destroy them' or 'Father, open the flood gates of justice and permit the staggering avalanche of retribution to pour upon them.' But none of these was his response. Though subjected to inexpressible agony, suffering excruciating pain, and despised and rejected, nevertheless, he cried, 'Father, forgive them.'
...As we celebrate this Christmas season, imagine if everywhere we went, we were able to Love our Enemies and follow the Golden Rule. Imagine the Peace on Earth that would come when we fully realize that "only love can conquer hate."
What a magnificent lesson! Generations will rise and fall; men will continue to worship the god of revenge and bow before the alter of retaliation; but ever and again this noble lesson of Calvary will be a nagging reminder that only goodness can drive out evil and only love can conquer hate.
Merry Christmas, or in other words, Let us love our enemies. When we get that right, there will truly be Peace on Earth.