By Joe LaGuardia
This Christmas Eve, as Trinity and so many other churches gather for candlelight services to celebrate Christ’s birthday, we will likely sing about the peace that accompanies Christmas.
The song, “Silent Night, Holy Night,”will woo our beloved baby Jesus to “sleep in heavenly peace.” And “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” will encourage us to rightly “hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace.”
The next morning, as my children open their long-awaited gifts and I cook my lasagna for the mid-afternoon meal, it will be a memorable time of celebration and joy.
Yet, in the midst of such celebration, we cannot forget that we live in a world ridden with conflict. In fact, many Christians around the world will not enjoy the same kind of Christmas experience as we.
Take Nigeria as just one example of a place in which hardships are facing Christians.
Nigeria is a diverse nation that has long enjoyed some semblance of peace among neighbors and inter-faith communities.
One of the largest Christian communities there is the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa of Nigeria (EYN), a contingent of the Church of the Brethren (a small, Germanic-born Protestant movement as old as the Reformation).
For years, the EYN have opened grade-schools, seminaries, clinics, social service organizations, and other relief communities.
In the last year, however, the EYN, among other Christian and Muslim communities, have come under attack by the radical Boko Haram movement, which made the news recently for kidnapping some 200 school girls.
According to the Church of the Brethren website, some 500 Brethren women and children have been kidnapped, over 3000 members have been killed, and nearly 100,000 have been displaced.
According to another report, Boko Haram seized the EYN headquarters and a partnering seminary as of October.
Many refugees are finding solace in Jos, Nigeria, the location of one of our local missionary’s place of ministry (missionary, Melanie Martin, once taught at nearby Honey Creek Elementary School) . They are regrouping there in search of relief, shelter, and medical supplies.
This means that while I am figuring out how to perfect my lasagna on Christmas day, thousands of families will have nothing to eat.
No one likes getting bad news on Christmas. Even relief organizations in our own country provide “the least of these” with enough resources to have a blessed Christmas.
And we should. But we also should not deny that our privilege as a people sometimes blinds us to the needs beyond our borders.
We don’t know what its like to have our children kidnapped or our families displaced. We don’t know what its like to lose our land and make a pilgrimage across country without adequate drinking water.
The birth of the Prince of Peace in our lives does not deny this fact. Rather, the Prince of Peace’s birthday shines a spotlight on the plight of humankind and confronts our response to it.
God gave us Jesus to have life, but God also gave us Jesus to provide light and life to others who are in need. Unfortunately, we spend so much time complaining about what we don’t have or what we want, we forget that much of what we do have is taken for granted.
This Christmas do not neglect the needs of people around the world who have yet to experience true peace. We may sing about it, but it will take a commitment from all of us–be it through giving money or serving overseas–to make peace a reality where peace is hard to find.
In related news: Praise God for Discover Point Church and so many other churches who are providing meals to needy families in our county this season. DP is feeding hundreds of families on Christmas day, challenging volunteers to spend Christmas serving others rather than serving themselves. We are proud to partner with DP in providing kitchen facilities necessary for accommodating the crowd.
If you are interested in helping with the Nigerian Brethren crisis, please contact Roy Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Brethren website for more information on how to serve or to give.