For all the boots of the tramping warriors
And all the garments rolled in blood
Shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
A son given to us;
Authority rests upon his shoulders;
And he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Praying for peace has never been high on my spiritual priority list. Occasionally the most relevant geopolitical hotspot makes its way onto the “prayer concerns” list at our Sunday services and is rattled off with other problems. However, a constant mindfulness of the ways in which God’s shalom is denied to countless men and women should be a central part of our relationship with the Prince of Peace. This same Prince came to establish the Kingdom of God that the prophets described in terms of swords being beaten into plowshares and lions laying down with lambs. To be called Children of God is to be those who work for peace (Matthew 5:10).
Our experience in the Middle East has added this new insight into the heart of God who knows violence, oppression, and death all too intimately through the life of the one born in Bethlehem. As we await the celebration of Christ coming into the world, we anticipate and pray for the day where He returns to wipe away every tear and where wars will be no more. This Christmas season, we encourage you to pray that God’s peace may be manifest in the following places:
-Lebanon: Though widespread violence is not a current reality in the country, distrust and suspicion define the social and political landscape. Pray that true peace that not only ceases aggression but that also reconciles, may reign in this country.
-Israel/Palestine: Pray for improving relations between Israel, Fatah, and Hamas. Pray that the spirit of the Torah and the prophets, which called Israel to a high standard of justice may move this state to respect the basic right of those who have called the West Bank home to live in their homes and work the land. May justice be the greatest guarantor of peace, rather than the ways of war.
-Iraq: May those who worship the Prince of Peace in a land that has disintegrated into a wilderness of violence find security and protection. Christmas, the recognition of the Son of God entering this world, will not be celebrated in Baghdad because of threats to the lives of Christians. Christians are rapidly emigrating from the country. May a community that bears witness to the Kingdom of God not disappear from a land that needs healing and reconciling more than most.
We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas this season. May the New Year be one in which our hearts are moved and governed by the Prince of Peace. May Jesus Christ, who freely acquainted Himself with infirmity, suffering, and death, establish His Kingdom in communities and nations that are defined by such horrors.