A Declaration of War – A Declaration of Peace
by Kenneth Kling
A note from Pastor Greg Mesimore:
What follows is a meditation one of our church members, Kenneth Kling, wrote. It presents an unique perspective on the meaning of the birth of Jesus particularly in light of the proximity of Christmas Day to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Edgebrook Covenant Church began public worship the week of September 7th thru the 14th, 1941. Three months later, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, an event that shaped the future of our congregation, as it did the world, for decades to come. Because the last Sunday of 2011 was Christmas Day and because it was the last Sunday where we marked our 70th Anniversary year, I felt it appropriate to read this meditation during our Sunday worship on Christmas morning. As you read it here, I trust it will give you pause. And hope. And conviction to press on in the cause of bringing God’s reign of peace to this earth.
When man first did evil, he declared war on God. When God sent His Son to Bethlehem, he declared peace on man. They were different acts but they presented similar challenges and called for similar responses.
Today we remember the birth of Jesus Christ, a declaration of peace. Eighteen days ago, we remembered Pearl Harbor, a declaration of war. Pearl Harbor was a brutal attack on our country which united Americans in such a spirit of service and sacrifice as had not been seen before. Millions of young men of every race, creed and nationality, even of the nationalities we were fighting, joined the armed forces. Teenagers lied about their age, so they too could fight in our country’s defense.
At home, women gave up weekends and days off to work around the clock in war factories. Families offered up their sons, bought war bonds, cultivated victory gardens, saved ration stamps and made do with what they were allowed. Children brought wagonloads of tin cans and newspapers to their schools to help win the war.
Four hundred thousand young Americans would die before it was over. Hundreds of thousands more would be wounded. But Americans resolved that no matter how long it took and however much sacrifice and suffering would be required, we would stand on every field, come back from every defeat and fight through every advance until VICTORY was won. It was a great and terrible time in our lives.
And now we come to today when we remember the birth of Jesus Christ. Choirs of angels announced the birth, singing “Glory to God, Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” This was to fulfill an old prophecy, “Unto us a child is born…the government will be upon his shoulders…he will preach good news to the poor … bind up the brokenhearted…proclaim freedom to the captives…release the blind from darkness…comfort all who mourn.” He would uphold his kingdom with justice and righteousness forever.
Several days later Jesus was brought to the Temple where an old man took Him into his arms and said to God, “My eyes have seen your salvation, a light for the Gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel.”
When Jesus was mature, a man named John would say, He was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus began His ministry with works of healing. He cured the deformed, strengthened the lame, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers and drove demons out of their victims. He fed hungry multitudes in the wilderness. He restored the dead to life.
After these works, people wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. And so Jesus did speak. He spoke to people who often felt comforted by selfishness, flattered by their prejudices and armed with suspicion. People like ourselves.
Jesus told his hearers we must love God with all our heart, our mind, our soul, our strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. When a hearer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a story that said nice things about a hated Samaritan.
When a rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to “sell all that you have, give to the poor and follow Me.” The young man went away dejected.
Jesus told his followers that if they wanted to be disciples they would have to bear a cross. He told his disciples that who ever would be greatest among them must be servant to the least.
He rebuked the powerful for their hypocrisy. He comforted the humble with His love. But in the middle of the night the wrath of His enemies descended on Him. He was forsaken by disciples who feared a cross, condemned by a court that rejected His Gospel and executed by a government that sacrificed justice for convenience. It was the darkest time in the lives of the disciples.
But Jesus returned from the grave to rally His disciples from their despair and inspire them to a new mission; to proclaim His victory over death and God’s forgiveness to a fallen humanity. He commissioned His disciples to bring this Gospel into a world ruled by hostile powers.
In the future thousands of men and women of every race, creed and nationality would enlist in the cause of the Gospel. Even children would be moved to sacrifice out of love for Jesus and His cause.
Families would offer their sons and daughters to His service. Devout disciples would sell all that they had, give to the poor and follow Him. It was the beginning of a great struggle against a powerful enemy armed with cruel hate. Thousands of disciples would be martyred and thousands more wounded.
But Christians resolved that no matter how long it took and however much sacrifice and suffering would be required they would stand on every field, come back from every defeat and fight through every advance until VICTORY was won for the Gospel. It is a great and terrible time in our lives.
And this is how December 25th teaches the same lesson as December 7th. God’s Peace is no more easily won than a World War.
So my brothers and sisters, children of God and followers of the one whose birth we celebrate today, continue to fight the good fight of faith.
For as the angel declared that first Christmas morning,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
Today in the town of David a Savior
has been born to you.
He is Christ the Lord.
Glory to God in the Highest and on earth Peace…
Peace…Peace…to those on whom His favor rests.