by Terry Schlossberg
In my church, we end each service of worship by turning to each other with a blessing. "The peace of Christ be with you," we say. It is an apt expression of hope for our fellow human beings at any time of year, but when we say it in the Christmas season we are consciously echoing the great angel choir that promised "Peace on earth; good will to men!" at the coming of Jesus.
The very precious meaning of "peace," not as the world gives but as our dear Savior gives, is the hope we express to each other. And it is one of the most ancient expressions of blessing that we convey to each other at Christmas.
This year Planned Parenthood has turned the traditional Christmas greeting on its head by replacing the biblical hope of the Gospel message with its own. In greeting cards and t-shirts, timed for Christmas trade, they replace "peace on earth" with "choice on earth." "Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy," wrote one of their religious advisors. What a subversion that is of the great truths we discover as we follow the Scripture through the Advent season of expecting the arrival of a baby who will save the world!
Is it really God’s idea that too many pregnancies pop up all over the place so that we need to pick and choose among them which babies conceived--as Jesus himself was conceived in the womb of his mother--should live, and which should not see the light of day?
Matthew writes that Joseph learned of the conception of a baby by Mary. In his great compassion, he sought to save her from disgrace, but never to destroy the child conceived in her womb, even when that child was very tiny. And God confirmed Joseph’s decision by visiting him in a dream:
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
Theologian Thomas Torrance reminds us that Scripture reveals to us that Jesus did not become human as a man or even as a newborn, but as a tiny embryo in the womb of his mother Mary. He was brother, says Torrance, to all embryos, beginning his own life just as we all begin our lives. The Gospel of Luke records the unborn John the Baptist responding to the presence of the newly pregnant Mary, "the mother of his Lord."
When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, the Gospel of Matthew explains that prophecy was fulfilled: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’"
Profoundly different is the message of the Gospel from the message of our culture. Peace on earth, the promise delivered at the birth of a tiny baby who had just completed the journey from embryo to newborn--the Savior and Lord whom we worship and adore--is in complete contrast to a message that seeks to glorify and extol a "choice on earth" that encourages us to reject the gifts of God’s wonder in the beginning of each child’s life in the womb.
"Peace on earth" versus "choice on earth." It is a day and night--light and darkness--difference in confessing who we are and whose we are.
We Christians turn to each other at every age and stage of life, from conception to old age, and we say: "The peace of Christ be with you." Life is in those words.