Bon Nadal can be translated literally "Good Nativity." Probably a more user-friendly version is Merry Christmas! The language is Catalan, which is the regional language of the state of Catalonia, where Barcelona is located. One of the curious things we have come to realize about this country is the strong regional identities in each place. Think of the rivalries between the Huskies and Cougars in Washington, add 10 degrees of intensity, put layers of history, local soccer teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid), other regional tendencies and language and this is what you get in this diverse country of Spain. There are people in both Madrid and Barcelona who will not travel to the other city.
In some measure, this aspect of living between tensions is what we deal with in our lives and describes the unique ministry we have been called to here in Europe more generally. Because we have an American passport and are citizens of the US, we often are engaged in rather interesting conversations about what is going on in the world, especially in Iraq, and our country's role in the world. At these times I feel dissonance. In terms of ministry to our focus people, we sometimes are also challenged whether it is viabile to serve, (love) "those people." A little more dissonace is sounded in my soul. I should mention that for the most part, we are strongly supported by our churches and very encouraged by friends. People believe in what we are doing. I like to think that God does too. Anyway, the questions speak to the provincial nature of us all, and how we often see the world with different eyeglasses. That leads to much of the dissonace we see and experience in our world. I suppose that is what it means to be human.
The Gospel has something to say to this, especially this time of year. Differences will always exist. “Enmity” will often describe interrelations between people, nations, sports teams and religions. Paul in Ephesians refers to Christ (the Christ child of all our Christmas stories) as our “peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity…thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:14-16). Luke also notes that God is guiding our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79) through the Christ event! Jesus himself calls peacemakers blessed, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). This is part of what we are called to in this world, to provide words and examples that can be the building blocks for making peace, understanding and celebrating the things that make us different instead of ripping us apart with disdain, hate and enmity! How we need this in our day.
I think God craves that his people overcome the provincial things that divide us, or worse, the hate that produces very ugly consequences in our world. This Christmas, I pray the peace of Christ will guard your hearts and minds. I also pray that he may guide your feet into ways of peacemaking wherever you live and relate to those who are different than you.
Bon Nadal! It is not just about how much we can receive, but also how much we can give to others a blessing of peace.
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