Tag Archives: Christmas

The Peaceful War Waged for the Peace of All Mankind

Eusebius_of_CaesareaWhile reading through Eusebius’ Church History, following the readthefathers.org plan, I read this from the introduction to Book 5, which tells of some of the martyrs in the Church in the mid-second century.

Other writers of history record the victories of war and trophies won from enemies, the skill of generals, and the manly bravery of soldiers, defiled with blood and with innumerable slaughters for the sake of children and country and other possessions. But our narrative of the government of God will record in ineffaceable letters the most peaceful wars waged in behalf of the peace of the soul, and will tell of men doing brave deeds for truth rather than country, and for piety rather than dearest friends. It will hand down to imperishable remembrance the discipline and the much-tried fortitude of the athletes of religion, the trophies won from demons, the victories over invisible enemies, and the crowns placed upon all their heads.

Others before us, and Christians in other places today, are fighting this other war, this peaceful war for the “peace of the soul,” their own and the those of the world.

Here is the Christmas letter of one (via Internetmonk), Pastor Saeed Abidini, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran for his faith:

Pastor AbidiniMerry Christmas!

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.

The angels declared the birth of the Christ to the Shepherds:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests! (Luke 2:14)

The peace of Christmas comes at a price, the death of the Christ. And the many who have likewise suffered and even died in imitation of Jesus, have continued to wage the war of Christmas, for the Peace of Mankind. Let’s pray for those who suffer in this war, and let us be ever willing to join them.

3 Lessons Learned from a Busy Christmas Season

christmas-rush“Phew!”, sighed the Pastor after the final service of the Christmas season which, in my church, is the New Year’s Eve service.  After that, the schedule begins to return to normal…and I have a moment to write a blog post.

My aim with this blog is to reflect on ministry by learning from the history of the Church. That’s harder than it may appear, which I guess is why it doesn’t seem to be done too much.  Over the last month or so, a flurry of activity has taught me a few things about trying to join history and ministry.

1)  Reflection is a luxury.  It takes time to stand back and to reflect on what we do.  And if you have no time, there is no reflection.  This is why we often don’t learn from history.  It takes time from our busy lives to learn what has been done before and then to try to connect it to what we are doing today.  Since we don’t have the time, or at least don’t take the time, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, instead of learning from it.

Lack of time is a fact of life, and always has been.  So we see that Church history tends to repeat as well, as it tends to be only those who had the luxury of peace and time who have been able to reflect.  That is why, of the reformers, John Calvin is the one who wrote the most thorough explanation of the theology of the Protestant Reformation.  He had the relative peace and security of his position in Geneva, while Martin Luther, being the pioneer of the Reformation, was mostly on the run from the Church authorities.  And the Anabaptists wrote very little in the way of reflection since they were hunted by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers.

2)  The things we always do are living history.  Every church has its holiday traditions that have always been done.  The way we decorate; when we decorate; what the worship is like…  We just think this is the way to do it.  In reality these traditions are history alive today.  Every tradition is rooted in the past.  So often we just do it, not realizing why.  And sometimes those traditions become unmoored from our present and we have no idea why we do them today.  It’s a little like the woman who always cut the ends of her roast before putting it in the roaster because her grandmother always did, not  realizing that her grandmother did it because she did not have a pan big enough to fit a whole roast!

3)  We bend history to suit our purposes.  I love learning about why we do the things we do, especially with holidays like Christmas.  Why do we have Christmas trees?  Why is Santa like he is?  Why do we have Advent Wreaths, Nativities, and other decorations?  While all of these have their history, such practices demonstrate how we change history to suit our purposes.  A great example is the Nativity display, which anachronistically includes the Magi, even though the Gospel of Matthew says they came later, and came to a house, not the manger.

Though a luxury, it is important for us to reflect on what has been done before.  That way we can move things forward, instead of just repeating the same mistakes over and over.  At least, that is why I study the history of the Church.