Bid thou our sad divisions cease And be thyself our king of peace

Image of unnamed protester

Image of unidentified protester holding a sign that says, “All I want for Christmas is to live”

How was your Christmas eve service? Mine was bittersweet. I found myself celebrating our Lord and mourning for the not yet answered cries for justice across our country. There was joy but there was also sorrow. For those lost, those grieving, and those working for justice this Christmas.

What will this holiday season be like for the families of Michael Brown, VonDerrit Myers, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and others? My heart goes out to them as they set one less place for the loved one who was taken from them. Last night, as we joined in worship together, I realized how many of the classic Christmas songs speak of peace, justice and righteousness. They aren’t simply empty accolades for the Christ child.

They speak to who he is, the revolutionary life he led, and what he represents. To those who’ve entertained anger or resentment when they found their travel disrupted by marches or their shopping interrupted by protestors: is there any greater time for civil unrest than on the observance of Christ’s birth?

This Christ we celebrate was a political man. A man whose ministry was subversive,devoted to the oppressed, and willing to dismantle systems. He was an agitator who did not wait for a convenient time. He unapologetically marched into sacred places and turned over tables. This man is the Christ we have been preparing for this Advent season; Emmanuel, God with us, in human form. This is Christianity’s most tangible example of solidarity: a man who came in the flesh only to die an unjust death at the hands of his government. How can we honor that man in one breathe and not seek justice for other men of color (or women, LGBT people, Immigrants and so on…) with the next?

The words of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” resonated strongly last night. These lyrics and the following two verses in particular are a glaring reminder of what the Lord expects demands from those who claim to honor him.

“Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice rejoice
Emmanuel shall come to thee oh israel

Oh come desire of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid thou our sad divisions cease
And be thyself our king of peace”

“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. […] The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.“- Isaiah 59:9-11,15b

“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.” – Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19 

What does the Lord see as he looks upon us this Christmas? Peace? It is not possible to have TRUE peace without the presence of justice. Take time this season to remember the lives lost, the work to be done and the legacy of Christ.

Blessed are the peacemakers.