Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
One song that has resonated with me this Christmas is “Labor of Love” written by Andrew Peterson. The first few stanzas go like this:
It was not a silent night There was blood on the ground You could hear a woman cry In the alleyways that night On the streets of David's town
And the stable was not clean And the cobblestones were cold And little Mary full of grace With the tears upon her face Had no mother's hand to hold
It was a labor of pain It was a cold sky above But for the girl on the ground in the dark With every beat of her beautiful heart It was a labor of love.
Doesn’t it bring to light the reality of what Jesus’ birth was like? We celebrate with beautifully decorated trees, twinkling lights, warm fires, and delicious scents. We gather our friends and family for wonderful feasts and gift exchanges that have us smiling and laughing together.
But that night was so different for Joseph and Mary -- full of pain in the struggle of birth. Here is another stanza that points this out:
Noble Joseph by her side Callused hands and weary eyes There were no midwives to be found On the streets of David's town In the middle of the night
So, he held her, and he prayed Shafts of moonlight on his face But the baby in her womb He was the maker of the moon He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move.
In many readings of the Christmas story this year, I am aware of the trust Mary and Joseph had to have to make the journey to Bethlehem at such a late stage of pregnancy, then to and from Egypt while Herod was in hot pursuit. Then there is the grief of the women whose children were killed by a furious Herod when he believed the Magi had tricked him! (Matthew 2:16) As the songwriters Clark, Koch and Harris wrote “What a strange way to save the world.” The reality of the Christmas Story’s beginning contrasted against what we do is stark, and yet, we know that God chose the time and place we live (Acts 17:26) we also know then, that He calls us to live out our calling in the world around us. In response, we REJOICE in the Salvation that is promised with Jesus’ birth!
And salvation is what Jesus is about. “For He Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14a). Redemption of a sinful, broken life so that “we are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…Jesus Christ the Cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19).
Christian Conciliation - Reconcilers - given the ministry of reconciliation, are making similar efforts to bring the peace of God and redemption to broken situations. While our work is a drop in the ocean compared to our Savior’s, He calls us to this ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18) that begins with helping others in their outcry of brokenness, fear, and feelings of being isolated and alone. We come alongside to help remind them that He is our peace, even in the middle of their “not so silent night.”
Christian Conciliation is in many ways a strange way to handle conflict. It doesn’t fall into the human tendency of finding fault, imposing guilt, and implementing punishment. In fact, it requires we pause and look at our own hearts, recognizing what our Savior did to save us, and breathe in His forgiveness. Not exactly the kind of counsel one usually receives when in conflict. While we certainly have not struggled helping others to the “point of shedding blood” (Hebrews 12:4), we do our best to give a “labor of love” in our work.
The ICC knows the challenges for anyone who wants to serve people in conflict, so we strive to provide you with the training, support, encouragement, and skills to help you in that labor of love, helping people see their Redeemer even in their conflict. What a mission opportunity!
But this is a big work and takes a significant investment of time, among other things. Maybe it is just me, but it felt like this last year was a frenetic effort to get “back to normal” after the pandemic. Perhaps it was, but we know how busy many of you are, so AoR and the ICC has been working to provide an efficient and effective way to serve you in the Conciliation world – “to redeem the investment” as one of our ICC Certification Advisors calls it.
And this has been my aim in 2022, to carry forth the ministry of reconciliation as the ICC Certification Coordinator and ICC Case Administrator. The work has been intense, but so encouraging as I interacted with all those connected with AoR and the ICC -- both past and present. Breathing a moment of peace into the lives of others is the peacemaking life we all strive to live. We hope you will continue to partner with us as we do this “labor of love” together.
I will close with this, the words of Zechariah in Luke 1:76 -79 regarding the pending birth of John the Baptist:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to this people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.”
And this is my prayer for us all, to give light and guide feet in the way of peace!
We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2023, and the years to come!
Institute for Christian Conciliation