You’d think, after all these years, that it wouldn’t come as a surprise. And yet today’s news, that a suicide bomber has blown up two churches in Nigeria, killing at least 26, is, of course, shocking and horrifying. Not just because of the human cost, but because it takes place on Christmas Day, and although that sounds naive, the idea of a suspension of hostilities on December 25th is iconic – just think about the famous First World War Christmas truce.
But Christmas Day was also a day on which kings were crowned. For all the sacredness of the occasion, it’s also a time that’s used by more earthly gods – politics, consumerism. And, as we’ve seen over the last twelve months, they still wield their destructive power.
Violence is all around us – violent deeds, violent words; violence between nations, violence within families. We’re desensitised to it in varying ways but it’s there, a lurking presence. When Martin Luther King was preaching non-violence to the Civil Rights movement it was on the assumption that not returning violence for violence was actually the hardest option – turning the other cheek is an act of strength and dignity, not cowardice.
But in a world where people are prepared to strap explosives to themselves and blow up Christmas services, a better plan than just carrying a bigger stick isn’t just desirable it’s necessary.
So at this time of year it’s worth thinking about resolutions. To not come out with the catty, snarky comment when it’s uncalled for (or even when it is), to not throw a punch, to not give in to rage and anger. Peace on Earth is an ambition, sure, but maybe it’s possible. We’ve just got to start acting like it is.