Peace Be With You

15 Dec 2023

“Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of Christ to you”

Taken from a Celtic Blessing

Shalom,

Welcome to all who are reading this message, whether you’re a member of the Christian Police Association, or not. At this festive time of year, I wish you peace and goodwill.

I started this message with a traditional Jewish greeting, but this isn’t in any way a political statement around the appalling situation in Palestine – far from it. I chose Shalom, as it has a close connection to the Christmas story, which surrounds us at this time of year.

Literally translated, Shalom means “peace”. But this narrow translation doesn’t do it justice. It’s not a superficial, Woodstock-style, peace – with two fingers raised in a v-sign, amidst a cloud of suspicious smelling smoke. No, it speaks of a peace which defies logic. An inner peace, which allows you to be calm when your world is imploding around you. A deep, all encompassing, completely reassuring peace – which even the biggest disaster cannot shake. But more of that in a moment…

As a Christian, Christmas is a special time for me!

Yes, I love a good Christmas movie… A Muppet’s Christmas Carol is our family favourite, but I have a guilty fondness for the whole range, from Love Acually to Home Alone, taking in Die Hard along the way for good measure. I also love the Christmas food… There are some tastes which, for me, conjure up the whole Dickensian Christmas Carol in a mouthful. My Grandma’s Christmas Cookies, the recipe brought over to the UK from the US over 70 years ago, do this for me. They take me back to cosy Christmases spent making them with her when I was younger; they brought joy to our, far too large, family a few weeks ago when we made and iced them; and I hope they will continue to do so for my children in years to come. And I love Christmas music… Everything from traditional choir-sung carols to Fairy-tale of New York. For me, it’s like being wrapped inside a snug Christmas blanket of sound.

But none of those are really why Christmas is special to me!

At Christmas time, I get reminded of a story which provides the foundation for hope in my life. Not the cosy, costume-filled – fluffy – nativity, which often comes to mind though. This story starts with war. A brutal Roman occupation. A king who was so power-hungry he resorted to murdering innocent children rather than risk being overthrown. A nation forced to become refugees, and return to their place of birth to be counted – like cattle being rounded up. This, then, was the context that we begin the story. A tumultuous time – filled with fear and suffering. And in the middle of that, a scared teenage girl – who has done nothing wrong – discovers she’s pregnant. This in itself was a death sentence for her, as she was engaged to be married – and her fiancé was not the father. Scandal is about to grip her small village, and she’s at the centre of it. Things can’t get much worse for her.

It’s at that point that an angel appears to her. Not a cute child wearing a sheet with some tinsel on his/her head, but a bright, shining spiritual warrior (as if things weren’t scary enough for her!). And the angel’s first words were “Do Not Be Afraid”. In some ways this could be seen as ever-so-slightly ironic, given everything Mary had going on! But this wasn’t a pithy command, in a Disneyesque “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again” sort of way. It was accompanied by a gift – a gift from God – of peace. A wave of calm, that would help her navigate her way through her central role in a story which would resonate down the centuries for thousands of years after her death. And that peace was only a glimpse of the peace that was to come.

Nine months or so later, came a baby who would change the world. A baby who would grow up to teach the importance of loving each other. A baby who would be friend to all those who were outcast, set-aside or abandoned. And a baby who would provide a bridge between us and God – so that whatever we do, however bad it is, we can be forgiven – and have a real, personal, relationship with God. At that forgiveness is at the heart of my hope as a Christian, all these years later. It’s the foundation for a peace which is outrageously strong, through the darkest of times, knowing that whatever I’m going through I’m not going through it alone.

So, in these uncertain and unsettled times – I wish you the deepest peace.

May God bless you all,


Tim

T/Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Rowlandson

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