music in the park san jose

“Happy Holidays” is the cheerful greeting we encounter this time of year. Many of the world’s religions celebrate a variety of holidays during what may feel like the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Many use fire and lights to brighten up the darkness. Most acknowledge a need for peace in a world prone to war.

This year is no exception. As peace in Israel/Palestine was shattered during the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah, or “Torah Celebration,” Oct. 7-8, atrocities of war have ensued between believers rooted in the same founding traditions of Abraham.

Rev. Mary B. Blessing

Here in the United States of America, we often fail to truly comprehend the horrors of religious war. Our constitutional right to freely practice our faith (or no faith) leaves many of us in shock as we witness the pain. Horrific pain, created by those who justify their insistence that all must believe as they believe, or they cannot exist.

Where is the peace? This time of year, Christians proclaim the coming of the Prince of Peace, commemorated Dec. 25, as the birth of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace. As a Christian, I often find myself having to remind others that the Prince of Peace we proclaim is One who came from the same Abrahamic Religion as Judaism and Islam. All three are rooted in Abraham, as proclaimed in Torah. 

Abraham is the “Father of Many Nations.” Judaism, Christianity and Islam all find their foundation in the same basic scripture…the Law of Moses. All proclaim a Prophet of Peace. The word “Islam” even means Peace! 

All encourage followers to seek peace. All do not agree, especially in contemporary times in which we live, how and when peace will fill this world.

Despite worldwide differences, what I have found inspiring, bringing hope to our region, is the dedication of current South Santa Clara County clergy and lay leaders representing these faiths in harmony. They intentionally seek prayerful peace, supporting one another in times of world conflict, praying together, acting together, learning together, simply being together.

During the uniquely shared celebration of Thanksgiving here in a context of freedom of religion, multiple representatives from all three Abrahamic Religions, as well as Buddhists, came together at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Gilroy. (After all, Buddhists rejoice in the enlightened one, Buddha, who was the embodiment of Peace, who taught followers to live peace.)   

Standing in solidarity, Jewish, Christian and Muslim sang for peace, proclaimed peace, prayed for peace—we all felt peace in the holiness of our thanksgivings. If Christ, Prince of Peace is to be celebrated in this season of darkness, lit with fires of hope, let us all rejoice that he is Prince for All Humanity, not a select few.

“Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.” Shout it from the mountaintops!

The Rev. Mary B. Blessing is an Episcopal Priest serving in the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. She can be reached at [email protected].

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