Advent: Peace and goodwill to us all

This article first appeared in the Marathon Mercury’s Dec. 8th, 2020 edition.

Thinking about “Peace” this second week of Advent, I’ve been reflecting on some of the responses we’ve heard from other communities who’ve had COVID-19 cases. Specifically, the harassment some who’ve tested positive have received. Emergencies tend to bring out our better angels, and our worst selves. “Peace” can be something we work for so zealously that we steamroll over others, or exclude people from the circle of community to preserve “our” peace at all costs.

COVID has now arrived, officially, in Marathon. Slowly our numbers are coming in; a case here a case there. As expected, I have already heard the grumbling beginning. Blaming this camp, or that organization; “those” people, or all the “outsiders” who come through our town. I can’t help but ask myself, what cost are we willing to pay for “our” peace and security? At the end of the day, is that true peace?

When we don’t feel in control of our environment, we often turn to anything that we can control. For example, we can decide who is in and who is out. Who deserves our support and who we should reject. But, as the Christmas story goes, God has declared “Peace on earth, and goodwill to all humankind.”

God declares peace to those who can’t seem to wear their masks over their nose. God declares peace to those out-of-town workers who travel back and forth from their families to the camps. God does not discriminate between the person engaged in a high-risk activity or the one who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, catching the virus as it hopped from a stranger to them.

What, then, is the responsibility of people of faith? How can we reject one another, exclude one another, when God’s made this profound declaration of peace to all? In my mind, we have no choice. We are called to share the Good News that each of us is a worthy member of our community. Each of us is loved whether we’re good at remembering to stay six-feet apart or not. Now, this doesn’t absolve us of our community responsibility, but I’m curious whether the warmth and support of community might be the best antidote to an apathetic attitude. When we embrace one another with care, that other person is more likely to reciprocate the love we offer them. Not always, but often.

My prayer this week is that we become our better angels. I hope that we see the good in one another, that we give grace to our neighbours, to the strangers we may meet in town. May we do this in the knowledge that God declared on that starry night long-ago peace and goodwill to us all.

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