I live and work a few minutes from the site of the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, CA. In fact on the morning of the attacks my wife was driving past the very area while the attacks were taking place. I was in a meeting at work when a colleague broke the news to us. I immediately rushed to the phone to call her since I knew she had plans to be in the city of San Bernardino that morning. Fortunately she had not yet left. Needless to say, she did not.
These attacks following closely on the heels of the attacks in Paris and the destruction of the Russian airline symbolize the obsession with violence and destruction that seems to have taken hold of many. While the number of official “wars” have lessened over the past few years the intensity and brutality of the fighting has dramatically increased. The result is that more people are being killed and the effects of the violence are more far reaching. For example the Syrian conflict has resulted in 200, 000 deaths and over 3 million refugees. Worldwide over 50 million persons have been displaced. According to the Watson Institute at Brown University, over 370, 000 have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In addition over 200, 000 civilians have been killed. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the United States 4.4 trillion dollars and counting.
As I reflect on this litany of wanton destruction, this senseless bloodbath that is engulfing the world, my thoughts go back to one of the oldest prophecies of the birth of the Messiah and I find a startling connection to war and destruction that is also illuminating and reassuring. In Isaiah 9:5 the prophet declares, “The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.” These prophetic words point to a time when the bloodshed will be ended. How is this possible? The next verse tells us, “for unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders and he will be called … Prince of Peace.” There will be no end to the increase of his Government of peace. Thus Christmas is if nothing else a reminder that the true government of this world and the responsibility for ending this continuing carnage is ultimately on the shoulders of he who was born in a manger centuries after this prophecy. At his birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill to all.” He himself promised, “peace I give to you … do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” He puts his peace in our hearts now so that we can live without fear in this time of fear and ultimately he will establish a kingdom of peace without end.
Despite the violence and brutality I am encouraged even as I enter the season that is intended to remember that “unto us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulders,” his name is Prince of Peace. How do you feel this Christmas season? I appreciate hearing your thoughts!