POPE Benedict XVI last Sunday invited Christians to look to Bethlehem, the city-symbol of peace, where peace has not yet been reached.
But the birth of Jesus Christ is “the prophecy of peace for every man”.
“Christians must become instruments and messengers of peace with the sentiments of Jesus,” AsiaNews reported.
Pope Benedict said the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, reminded us that Christmas “is not a children’s story but God’s answer to the human drama in search of real peace”.
This was his message to pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus.
Taking inspiration from the liturgy of the day, citing the words of the prophet Micah, he asked the people to “look to Bethlehem, the small town of Judaea witness of the great event.” He added that “… there is a divine plan that includes and explains the times and places of the coming of the Son of God in the world”.
“Christmas is not a children’s story but God’s answer to the human drama in search of real peace. ‘He himself will be peace!’ says the prophet, who was referring to the Messiah,” the Pope said.
“We must open wide our doors to welcome Him.”
In Geneva, the president of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Mark S. Hanson urged Christians worldwide in his Christmas message to celebrate God’s promised peace in expectant hope, despite moments of fear and yearning.
Bishop Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran church in America, said while the first Christmas was also marked with uneasiness, ordinary shepherds in Palestine received the glad tidings about peace that human hearts longed to hear.
“God’s peace is promised in the person of the Saviour Jesus. The Word made flesh is the very embodiment of God’s goodwill, not an empty abstraction. The one born at Bethlehem is God’s promise made good in flesh and blood,” he said.
“God’s peace has come and will make its home in you. Join your voices in the song that is itching to be sung and the whole world deserves to hear.”
In Australia, church leaders delivered a message of hope, joy and peace.
A recent headline in the paper was Kids bring Christmas Message.
“It is amazing how in the lead up to Christmas we often look to children to discover the Christmas message.
“Children bring the first Christmas alive through their pageant presentations with angels singing, shepherds watching and Mary and Joseph finding no room in the inn.
“These aspects of the first Christmas are not the message but merely pointers to the portion of the Christmas message that is hardest to grasp is that God brings hope joy and peace for the world. God shares our humanity as Jesus is born in Bethlehem. God is with us Emmanuel,” said Rev Tara Curlewis, general-secretary of the National Council of churches in Australia.
Rev Curlewis said the Christmas message embraced a hope for our world where people lived in peace with no oppressive regimes, power struggles and war, poverty, discrimination and homelessness.
The Western church celebrates Christmas on Dec 25. Most Orthodox Churches will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity on Jan 7.