Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; Micah 4:1-5; Ephesians 2:11-22
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” – a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands – remember the you were at one time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, the he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; In whole you are also built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. NRSV
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Ephesians 2:14 (NIV)
The Gentiles, who were at one time welcomed into the temple (I Kings 8: 41-43), are no longer allowed into the temple under penalty of death; the wall of hostility divides the Jews from the non-Jews. The writer of Ephesians proclaims peace and unity are now here through the broken body of Jesus.
Last Sunday we lit the 4th candle, the candle symbolizing peace—the culmination of our journey to Bethlehem. Peace on earth, goodwill to all. And yet there remains so many walls of hostility. The Body of Christ introduces a fundamental perspective of community as organic, not structural, organizational or doctrinal—forms of community against which Jesus struggled. These artificial communities, with their rigid systems, were exactly what Jesus sought to replace. He welcomed people into relationships that allowed for differences, tolerated uncertainties, and respected the dignity of every human being. May we do the same as we pray a prayer for unity from the Book of Common Prayer:
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Offered by Bill Albritton, a light on our path to Bethlehem.