Senior Minister’s Message
Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea
By the time you receive this edition of The Congregationalist, we will be on the threshold or have already entered the season of Advent. On each Sunday leading up to the lighting of the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve, we will light one of the four candles of the Advent wreath–candles representing Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. I have wondered lately though, if there shouldn’t be a fifth Advent candle.
The candle of Justice.
Jesus is frequently referred to as “The Prince of Peace” this time of year, and peace is the frequent subject of Christmas cards and Christmas carols. Peace in those contexts is often perceived as calmness; gentleness; absence of conflict. But “peace” in the context of the Gospels, in the sense that Jesus speaks of it, is most intimately tied to something else.
The peace that Jesus came to help bring the world is, as Christian theologians have understood for centuries, inseparable from justice. The famous slogan from the Civil Rights era, “No justice, no peace”, came from those whose roots were deeply imbedded in the Christian faith. It is a spiritual truth that we are being called on to remember and take seriously once again in this time. From the streets of Ferguson, to inner city Baltimore, to Wall Street, to the halls and grounds of the University of Missouri, to the rise of political “outsiders” like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders, we seem to be experiencing the most significant time of civil protest in our nation in several decades.
Why? While there is no one answer when it comes to any large scale social phenomenon, there is also no question that a significant factor is so many people in our society feel that their voices are not heard - that they do not matter to our leaders on either side of the political aisle or to the workings of our major institutions. And there is ample evidence to support those feelings.
While peace as Jesus understood it and advocated it refuses to condone violence, it does call us to speak and act in the service of justice for all God’s people. So during this Advent and Christmas season, perhaps we might consider helping to bring a little more of the real peace of Christ into the world by offering the gift of justice.
How? There are many worthy causes we can offer our financial and personal support to. But perhaps we might start by engaging the question, “Why are others angry?” as it pertains to a particular incident or group; by educating ourselves about the people involved and what it is like to be them in their particular circumstances. Or perhaps begin by making an intentional effort to get to know someone different from us in some significant way, whether it's economically, religiously, racially, or socially.
Peace–the peace represented by that Advent candle and by the person of Jesus during this season–is neither simple nor easy, because in order to get to it and keep it, we have to light the candle of Justice along the way.
Advent and Christmas Blessings, Mark