I love this time of year. It’s especially great when Hanukkah and Christmas overlap but even this year, when Hanukkah was so early, the Christmas holiday is often when extended family get together. Nieces and nephews are home from college, family members travel to be near to distant family. Such was this year for our annual stay at my siblings’ vacation home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
As in most families, ours has its share of interpersonal relationship dramas. So when the holidays put so many together in close quarters there are the usual challenges. But I loved how my brother started the Christmas Eve meal, my sister-in-law’s annual Polish tradition of seven fish dishes which we’ve shared for over thirty years. He reminded us of the meaning of Christmas, i.e., to remember the birth of our Messiah, and then went on to have us all reflect on one of Yeshua’s most important points from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
The days of the holiday only got better as I saw this message work in the hearts of those of my family members struggling with hurtful feelings in certain of their relationships with another. I saw genuine kindness and loving interactions between those who I knew were going through difficult times with each other. It was as if in spite of themselves, those touched by Him could not stay mad at each other. Memories of harsh words were being replaced with feelings of how much each loved the other, thoughts of happier times together from the past. New kind actions were soothing the pain of the hurtful ones. I felt God at work, covering our time together, invited by my brother’s invoking this part of Yeshua’s teachings.
HaShem’s love orchestrated each blessed day. I watched awestruck as hearts still hurting were drawn to a loved one who had inflicted the hurt. Clearly there was a power here far beyond what anyone was saying or doing. Abba’s love for his creations does not take away the underlying issues that still need to be addressed, but it created a place of His peace, of His shalom. Dwelling in the shadow of His wings were the prideful, hurtful, those wounded, angry, now enabled to experience divine love. We were reminded of the power of unconditional love, the ability to love the unlovable, the love of imperfect humanity. There sprang the hope for resolution, a glimpse of days of forgiveness of those who wrongfully judge, and acceptance of the other, warts and all, not fully now but perhaps someday.
Reminiscent of the quoted passage from the Sermon on the Mount are the lyrics of a song we all know, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Truly if each of us, if everyone had that thought, what a different world this would be. . .
Perhaps this is the year, 2016, when each of us can try a little harder to live by those words, for with love comes shalom. And if peace begins with each of us, then the world around us, and the world around those we touch, and the world around those touched magnify the goodness so that someday all will “walk with [our] brother in perfect harmony.”
Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom.