If you were the real Father Christmas and you happened to visit a few hundred thousand churches today on a pre-Christmas dry run, I suspect you would find a common theme running through many sermons preached this morning.
Marc Lawrence and Katie Ford wrote one of my all time favourite films Miss Congeniality. It’s about an FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock, who must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a group of terrorists from bombing the event. It has some classic lines – like when Stan Fields asks Miss Rhode Island, “please describe your idea of a perfect date”. She replies, “That’s a tough one. I would have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket”. Or when Miss New Jersey is asked why it is called “The Garden State”? Gracie Hart replies, “Because “Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State” wouldn’t fit on a license plate?” Each of the contestants is asked the same final question “what is the one most important thing our society needs?” They all reply “world peace” and the crowd cheers ecstatically. But when Sandra Bullock the undercover FBI agent is asked she replies, “That would be… harsher punishment for parole violators.” And then after a long pause, she adds, “And world peace!” and the crowd cheers ecstatically. What does this world need most?
“World Peace” will be a common, predictable message we will hear on the TV and radio, in charity adverts and from pulpits over the next couple of weeks. The question is – how to achieve it? I believe the UN Declaration of Human Rights to be the finest and most important document devised by mankind. But human words will not bring about peace on earth. I support the humanitarian work of the United Nations wholeheartedly, but the UN will never achieve world peace through passing resolutions and by intervening with peace keeping forces.
This week the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Church leaders in the UK called for military intervention to stop the killing in the Congo. I support that call, and similar initiatives in Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Palestine, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Columbia, and a hundred other places in our world where people are hurting one another, but the UN cannot resolve the underlining causes. That is because hunger, ignorance, poverty and disease are the symptoms not the causes.
Only one person can bring world peace and one day he will. Jesus Christ. Among his people, among those who recognise him, who own him, who submit to him, he serve him, we can experience a foretaste of that peace he will most surely bring one day soon. Please turn with me to Isaiah 9:1-7 and let us meet him, let us learn from his names and learn of his purposes for us, for our families, for our world and for the future.
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