Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Exactly 200 years ago, in the Lungau region of Austria, Joseph Mohr penned these words to a beloved Christmas carol.
But two centuries later, as we hear news from around the world, we struggle to find the calm and peace described in Mohr’s song.
Today, our hearts turn to the tragedy in Syria, and particularly Aleppo. Mennonite Central Committee receives daily pleas from our partners to remember and pray for those whose lives are far from peaceful.
The people of Syria are facing unimaginable horrors, caught in a conflict where all sides have perpetrated atrocities against the others. On Dec. 13, media announced that a ceasefire and evacuation agreement had been reached in Aleppo. But we know that many people are still injured, homeless, hungry, cold and terrified. In other parts of Syria, the fighting continues and threatens many villages.
This Christmas, we invite you to pray with us. We invite you to stand with brothers and sisters in Syria who know very little calm or peace. We invite you to speak words of hope into this war that has spanned more than five years and taken the lives of some 400,000 people.
We also ask that you continue to stand with us – long after the Christmas season has ended – as we bear witness to the Prince of Peace through our work with partners in the region.
Not only does MCC engage in humanitarian work in Syria and Iraq, we are also committed to advocacy work with the Canadian and U.S. governments, and with the UN, calling for constructive international engagement and an end to the brutal civil war. This is both a humanitarian and a political crisis, and MCC is committed to pursuing peace through all means possible.
We would like to end this Christmas message with a poem written by MCC Ontario executive director Rick Cober Bauman. Our sincere prayer is that all our lives would be filled with Christ’s heavenly peace in the coming year.
God of Love who promised us light in the darkest season,
You have not, we know, forsaken any of us.
Even though, when we look around the world, we wonder.
We wonder how the people of Aleppo can sense your love, your peace.
We wonder how the teacher with a rubble-reduced school can sense it.
We wonder how the 11-year-old with a shrapnel-marked face can sense it.
We wonder how the pilot with a barrel-bomb-loaded plane can sense it.
Yet we know the promise of Christmas
Is that you have come
To dwell among such as these;
To be especially present to this teacher, this boy, this pilot.
And we cry.
We cry for wisdom that will call powerful ones to seek the welfare of the poor.
We cry for wisdom that will call powerful ones from the field of battle to the table of talk.
We plead that they may sense the call of your love, your justice, your peace.
We cannot wait, and yet we wait,
On Jesus the Christ,
Sent to crumbling Aleppo as the Comforter.
Born in terror,
Present in sobbing Aleppo as the Prince of Peace.
Delivered to stricken Aleppo a Child of Hope.
Yours in the name of Christ,
Executive Director, MCC Canada
J. Ron Byler
Executive Director, MCC U.S.
Photo: Courtest of Rev. Ibrahim Nsier/MCC.