If one simply takes him at face value, as a man who walked the earth and taught his followers some lessons about the nature of man there is reason enough to celebrate. We celebrate many men who have walked this earth and have been part of a long line of teachers who preached peace, generosity of spirit, and kindness. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and others in our lifetime have preached the idea of peaceful change in a world where peace is often a fleeting moment here and there. Jesus was their forerunner.
He came into a world that was corrupt and where men did not treat each other very well. We live in a similar world. He said that he came to replace the old law with a new law. We are in a time where the old ways need to give way to new thinking. What he taught was that we should all love one another. He taught the Golden Rule, to treat others as we would wish to be treated. He taught peace: “Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God.”
But we have not learned our lessons very well from any of the wise teachers in our human history. On this day, on the eve of Christmas, 2013, there is bloodshed in Syria, in Sudan, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, in drug-related killings all over Mexico, in cities all over the United States, in countries the world over. The bodies pile up and we continue developing new and more powerful weapons to kill more people with less risk to the killers. The shortest verse of the Bible is “Jesus wept” and I imagine that if he were here today he would still be weeping uncontrollably.
My wish on this night is for a world of peace, a world where Christians and Muslims break bread together, where Buddhists and Hindus connect, where believers and unbelievers can believe in each other, where life-long enemies can stop for a moment and somehow find their common humanity rather than their common enmity. We are all more alike than we are different. We all want to be happy, we want to live, and we want to live in peace. None of the world’s great teachers ever got us to lay down our arms and use our arms to reach out to those who are on the other side of whatever man-made barriers we have created. But they opened the door. They nudged us in that direction. Neither Jesus nor Mohammed wanted a world of war any more than any of us who have to fight them want it. It is only the rich and powerful men who Jesus warned us about who gain anything by poor men killing each other for them and for cynical ideals of patriotism and glory.
There are no borders when two hearts connect in the world. There is only understanding that can cross borders. We are all children of God or some greater presence that we haven’t identified yet or simply the creation of accidents in the universe. However we came to be, we are all far more alike than we are different. We just need to sit down at the table and get to know each other. Jesus knew that, just as Nelson Mandela knew that. The celebration of Christmas is a good reminder that peace is a goal worth striving for whether one believes in the divinity or the humanity of Jesus. It doesn’t matter. The lesson of peace is valid either way.