Written by The Rev. Dr. Jack F. Price
We all know the Christmas story–Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, angels singing, and shepherds and wise men going to the stable to greet baby Jesus. But there are other Christmas stories as well, stories that reveal the meaning of “God with us” and of peace on earth. One such unexpected Christmas story is found in The Life of Pi, a novel and motion picture about a 16 year old boy from India who found himself adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, following a shipwreck, sharing a 26 foot long life boat with a 450 pound Bengal Tiger.
Pi has made a makeshift raft for himself and tethered it to the life boat at a distance of some 30 feet to get some distance from the tiger. He had the foresight to take with him a supply of food and water. As he began to ponder survival for himself, several plans were created, then abandoned. Plan #6 was essentially a war of attrition—to keep his distance and wait until the tiger would die of starvation. It seemed like the most reasonable plan–certainly better than attacking the tiger. Until suddenly, reality hit home for Pi. This was the worst plan of all! Hunger and desperation would eventually overcome the tiger’s fear of the ocean and he would swim to the raft and eat the boy.
No, there must be a Plan #7. It is not the tiger who must be overcame, but the greater enemy—fear.
[Fear is] life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary. The truth proclaimed in Bethlehem’s manger was that love overcomes fear. It is never a question of them or us and always a matter of all of us together. We are in the same boat and will live or die together. As a human race, we are one—and also one with all creation in God, whose love always still flesh in the lives of people.
Joy to the world and peace on earth are the promises of Christmas, but these can only come when we awaken to God’s presence in ourselves and begin to recognize that presence in others. To make peace on the earth, we must first act to make peace in our communities and our relationships. To make peace in the world, we must first embrace peace in ourselves. To find joy in the world, we have to choose joy for ourselves.
May God bless you now and throughout this season.