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Commentary: War touches our family once more

This simple Nativity set is a reminder of the yearning for the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmas season. A UMNS file photo by Maile Bradfield.

A UMNS Commentary
By Rev. Harold Bales*

Dec. 10, 2009

It is Advent, the beginning of the traditional time of year when Christians are reminded of the birth of Jesus and the biblical promise of his Second Coming.

It is a time of anticipation for followers of Christ. Every year, this blessed season arrives in a new context. Times change and our challenges are always evolving. Some things are getting better for the human family. Other things remain the same.

The Rev. Harold Bales

Sometimes the whole Earth seems to groan under the weight of profound human woes.

At a recent worship service, the following words were part of my prayer with the congregation:

“Again this year, as so often in the past, we pray to you, God, against a backdrop of wars and conflicts in this world. Prince of Peace, Lord, raise up and empower wise peacemakers. Grant, O God, that we will waste no more human lives on the altar of human sin, arrogance, ambition and pride. Make us learn to pour our resources into the advancement of civilization rather than into the pockets of those who profit off conflict and human misery.”

This is an especially poignant time for our family. Our oldest grandson, John White, completes his U.S. Army basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He will spend a brief time in Germany. Then he will be deployed to Afghanistan.

We now join those other families whose daily prayers will intensify immensely.

It is a relatively small group of Americans touched so directly by war this Christmas. Most of us read the news with a generalized detachment and a shrug: “It doesn’t much affect us.” But for we few who have loved ones at risk, a different emotion applies.

Our family has a long history of military service to America, in every war dating back to the Revolutionary War. In the Civil War, ours, like many others, was a divided family. Most of our ancestors were in the Union Army, but some served in the Confederate Army. One of our grandfathers died in a Confederate prison camp.

When the nation called, our family has been quick to answer. We honor the men and women from our family who have served and continue to serve.

A yellow ribbon around the altar candle at Hinesville (Ga.) First United Methodist Church is a reminder that many loved ones will not be at home this Advent. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.

Still, I detest war.

Those who cause wars to arise violate most of the Ten Commandments and most of the principles of civilized behavior. So often the origins of war are found in aggressive ambitions against neighbors. Greed and covetousness power the conflicts. The urge to control others is a motivating force. The list goes on and on: racial and cultural enmity, national arrogance, religious pride, ignorance, bigotry, hate.

So, we yearn for the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmas season to do his work in this world. We want no more families to suffer the grief of the loss of a son or daughter to war. We want no more loss of innocent people at the hands of murderous barbarians. We want all people to sleep in safety. We want children to be healthy and well fed, educated and happy. We want old people to be at ease in their final years. We want justice and peace for everyone.

We love our John. He is dear to our hearts. We are proud of him. And we pray for him and all others who follow a sense of duty into the service of peace. We pray that God will protect them and that they will always be on the side of what is right and just in this world.

*Bales writes a weekly column “The Southern-Fried Preacher” and is a “semi-retired” minister of visitation at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kannapolis, N.C. This commentary was published by the United Methodist Western North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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The Southern-Fried Preacher

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