Editor’s note: The Advocate prints this editorial annually, with occasional variations.
In this December, as in recent ones, the news has been filled with reports from Afghanistan as well as from the front lines of the American yuletide season — the shopping malls, the live Nativity scenes, the Salvation Army ringing its bells. The nation has also focused its attention on a school shooting in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 youngsters and six adults. Closer to home, The Advocate published a series this year documenting the continuing challenge of violent crime in Baton Rouge.
All of this has made us wonder again at the state of a world in which fighting and Christmas can be connected in the same thought.
But there’s nothing really new in this. Human conflict is as old as humanity itself and it raises its specter in every season, even one supposedly devoted to peace and joy.
Today, as the Christian world marks another Christmas, we pause and remember the sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who cannot be with us today because they are fighting far from home.
Today, we also pause to remember the members of the military who died this year. Their absences will be deeply felt at holiday tables across the country.
Today, we remember all lives claimed by violent crime this year. This holiday season is made poorer by the loss of these lives.
Today, we hope and pray for peace in our time, and for the day when those fighting abroad can come home. We pray for peace in our homes, our schools and our streets.
Peace remains elusive in our day, but this Christmas and every Christmas gives us reason to hope. That first Christmas, the one recorded in the New Testament, must not have looked very promising at first. It involved the story of a poor Jewish child born into a world dominated by a ruthless Roman Empire that often treated human life quite cheaply. A later chapter of the story, which chronicled a cruel crucifixion, is testament to that.
But what endures is the message of that first Christmas, and the teachings the small boy born in a manger would offer as he grew to manhood. Those teachings, which affirm the value of love and charity, continue to resonate with those of other faiths, and even with many of those who claim no faith at all.
We embrace hope today because the Christmas story encourages us to look for hope in unlikely places.
The Bethlehem of the Book of Luke seemed just such an unlikely place:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed ... And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, Bethlehem ... to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife being great with child.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ... And this shall be a sign to you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and 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, good will toward men.’ ”
Today, we renew our hope for peace and good will, and we wish our readers a merry Christmas.