“Let there be peace on Earth
And let it begin with me”
Sung in church choirs, concert halls, and chiming through shopping mall speakers, Let There Be Peace on Earth, has been spreading it’s hope-filled message since 1955, and in that same year, Thomas Merton published No Man is an Island in which he wrote:
All [people] seek peace first of all with themselves… [Someone] who is not at peace…projects [their] interior fighting into the society of those [they] live with, and spreads a contagion of conflict all around [them].
What did these prophets of the 1950s know that we struggle to recognize 60 years later? How is it that we allow our own self-isolation, self-doubt, and self-hatred cloud our vision? How is it that what we want for others, we fail to provide to ourselves? How is it that we fail to recognize the face of God in others, while also failing to see the face of God staring at us in the mirror?
Our world is a scary place. A simple scroll of a Twitter feed can prove that. Our interior lives are just as frightening. A simple moment of silence can prove that.
So how might we overcome that fear? How might we bring peace into the world? Might I suggest returning to the opening song?
“Let there be peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be…
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony.”
In the smiles of people passing by. In the laughter of friends that weaves late into the midnight hours. In hugs shared when people meet and when people part. Advent marks the foretelling of a Christ-child whose life on Earth would last a mere 33 years and then fade away like a slow burning flame in a cold winter’s night. Yet, it takes only a simple spark, or perhaps four burning candles, to reignite a blazing flame.
Rather than recognizing the Christ-like flame already alive in each person, Christians echo the cries to “Wait!”, for the return of some Christ-child to light the candle for us1.
Christians need no longer wait for the birth of Christ, but rather a rebirth of joy in their lives. For when the joy-filled Christ, enters into the Christian experience it is impossible to escape the reality that “we are all shining like the sun”2.
For in that reality all Black, Jewish, Muslim, Trans, Lesbian, Gay, Refugee, and Immigrant lives matter. If we truly await for the day for peace to come to earth, then we must begin reconciling peace in our hearts today.
When we allow joyful peace in our hearts, we hope for a time when we can look in the mirror with pride, reconciled to the sins of our past, and embracing with loving compassion the journey that awaits us. If we are to bring about loving compassion in ourselves, then we must celebrate it in others.
When the All-Power and All-Loving God, came to life as a mere human, God could have easily chosen to be born into a royal or wealthy family, and yet God bore itself into a poor, low-class family. A family that struggled, wondered, and migrated to a distant land just for a place to give birth only to be rejected and sanctioned to a barn of animals. A gesture, which at the time, would have symbolized their status as less-than-human. Why might this LORD GOD birth himself there in the company of barnyard animals rather than wealthy aristocrats? Perhaps the Infancy Narratives, some of the last Gospel stories to be written, are suggesting in their foreshadowing the importance of the lowly and forgotten peoples of our world.
“For whatever we do for the least, we do for God” (Matthew 24:31-46).
While we hope for a “preferential option for the poor” we systematically limit equal access to healthcare, education, economic stability, and even our border. This not only oppresses “the other” but it also oppresses our own capacity to love like Christ. For it was, as scripture writes, a small, poor, migrant, family in which the Son of God was born, and birthed in a place barely suitable for animals. If this is the story we retell each Advent and Christmas, how then can we reach out to those people who Jesus Christ was most closely aligned? How might we reach into the poverty of our own spirit and find ways in which we need to grow?
If we continue to negotiate peace in our hearts, we fail to repeat this story of Advent and Christmas, a story that begins in the same way that it ends… In a world too full, with “no vacancy” that shuts itself off to the joyful possibilities at their doorstep only to then reject its message and systematically kill and shout for the death of its Parabolic truths.
The true “War on Christmas” is failing to recognize who Christ truly was—a poor, migrant, who struggled to survive under the rule of a repressive government that built systems of oppression that kept “people in their place.” This simple Son of God spent a mere three years of his life, working with the poor, ministering to the sick, comforting abandoned and abused women, and walking with people in need.
This Christmas can we end our own war? The same war that existed with the innkeeper. Can we “let peace begin with me” by opening our doors to the possibility of Christ? Can we make room for “the least of my people?” Will we continue to only celebrate the dazzling white Christmas card baby Jesus? Or perhaps it is time to finally grow up?
Perhaps now it is time to see who Christ truly came to be.
Perhaps now it is time to finally put the real Christ back in Christmas!