Today, people from Salem to Jerusalem celebrate Christmas in a world that is vastly different from that which greeted baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
But it remains a world divided by religions, ethnic differences, politics, economics and fear. It is a world that lives under the expanded threat of terrorism and the worry of war.
As old wars continue and new ones erupt, when the needs of the homeless and the hungry grow ever larger, when discord hangs over our cities and countries, we might be forgiven if we scoffed at peace as an elusive ideal.
It is true that as long as conflicts, animosities and inequities flourish and divide us, we cannot truly realize the Christmas message of peace.
But Christmas brings us hope.Hope that we can overcome the roots of conflict