Commentary: Christmas is still about children and peace
12/23/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
A head-and-shoulders photograph of the Rev. R. Randy Day is available.
A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. R. Randy Day*
Advent and Christmas have been taken to a new depth for me
this year, as I've contemplated the arrival of the Prince of Peace while
visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki in mid-December.
given and the faith called for in the New Testament are revolutionary
and radical, and they begin with the birth of a child. A child always
brings things into focus for me.
My journeys through the museums
and peace parks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were most powerful spiritual
experiences. The films, still photos, and displays of various articles
melted by the intense heat of the atomic bombs dropped in August 1945
are emotionally and intellectually profound.
Slowly and quietly
walking through the museums with hundreds of young Japanese students
made it less scientific, academic and political. Rather, it was very
human - very "now," not "then." Were some of these students the
grandchildren of the 200,000 people killed in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and
132,000 people killed in Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945?
Christmas do not go together. Nuclear weapons, conventional weapons,
land mines, handguns - none of these belongs in the Nativity. Yet, the
world is saturated with them, and Christians own and use them.
for peace and building up and maintaining arsenals do not go together
in a New Testament world view. The Christ child born in Bethlehem never
said you must destroy a village in order to save it, or invade a country
in order to save it. Describing such acts of violence as "missions"
does not fool the Creator.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not cities
of doom today but cities of peace and life. While visiting
Methodist-related schools and universities in the two cities, our
delegation from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries met
visionary, committed faculty members, administrators, missionaries and
Seeing the door to a classroom open on the campus of a
Nagasaki school, I stepped in and asked if we could say "hello." After a
brief moment of astonishment at unannounced visitors, the high school
students eagerly surrounded us, chatting, laughing, shaking hands,
crowding in for a group photo. The energy level was high! Here is the
hope for authentic peace, I thought.
Our mission, our Christmas
message, is to have a world where our children can be safe, healthy,
free spirits. To make this a reality in Liberia, Zimbabwe, North Korea,
Kashmir, Haiti, the West Bank and Gaza is our challenge.
must not be confined to texts and resolutions but established and
practiced throughout humanity. Building walls in the land of the
Messiah's birth, allowing preventable diseases to kill millions of
innocent people each year, and tolerating hunger on a planet that
produces enough food for all are evidence of the monumental failures of
our current policies and practices as a family of nations.
Iraq from Japan provided a new perspective. While I was in Japan,
Saddam Hussein was captured. Placing the former dictator on trial for
killing Kurds may give notice to others who abuse power.
during my trip, U.S. authorities in Iraq stopped the counting of
civilian Iraqi casualties. Does an occupying army bring lasting peace?
Did the occupying Roman army bring peace to the Palestine of Jesus'
The Japanese, among others, raise the uncomfortable
challenge that the United States and Great Britain, while still
searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, are using weapons
containing depleted uranium shells in Iraq. The U.N. resolution also
classifies these munitions as illegal weapons of mass destruction.
These are heavy questions for the season of joy and peace.
and Epiphany will provide special moments of deep, spiritual reflection
for most of us - experiences that feed our souls to address the
difficult questions of our age.
I had one of those spirit-filled
moments after a worship service where I was invited to preach. I held a
beautiful 3-month-old baby girl - a new life in Hiroshima, a city where
so many children died from the first atomic bomb blast and many others
died from leukemia and other radiation-related diseases for years
thereafter. I silently prayed that this newly baptized child would grow
up in a world of peace with justice.
Later that Sunday afternoon,
I thought of her and my children and all the children of the world as I
rang the Bell of Peace in Hiroshima. The inscription reads: "Step
forward, and toll this bell for peace!" It is an invitation to peoples
of all faiths and walks of life.
As a Christian, I tolled the
bell and thanked God for the Prince of Peace and shalom for all of
Creation. Let's all step forward and work for peace this Christmas and
throughout the new year.
# # #
*Day is the top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
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