Peace on earth
0 comment Thursday, November 6, 2014 |
Peace on earth, goodwill toward men
That often-heard phrase epitomizes the Christmas spirit. We sing those words in Christmas carols, and send cards to one another containing that phrase. Yet has any of us ever seen a time of ''peace on earth, goodwill toward men"? I remember no such time in my lifetime. As far back as I can recall, there have been "wars and rumors of wars," somewhere on the globe. I do remember hearing of Christmas cease-fires, during which the shooting stopped in the spirit of the Christmas holiday. But soon enough, the battle resumed after the Christmas season was past.
In my parents' lifetime, there was the conflagration of World War II, and my mother described to me the wild jubilation which followed the surrender of Germany and then Japan, and the Victory celebrations. I am sure that my parents hoped, if they did not completely believe, that peace would prevail, and that war would somehow cease, in a world weary of battle. Yet a mere few years later, our troops were in Korea. And now the Iraq war calls many Americans to the other side of the world, and our thoughts and good wishes are with them this Christmas.
Peace on earth is an ever-elusive dream, and becoming more so. Despite the occasional breaks in the conflicts, war, like poverty, is ever with us. And just as with poverty and want, we can ameliorate it but not will it into nonexistence. The deluded among us think that 'government' can banish these things, or that good intentions can bring peace and plenty to everyone. What was the phrase in that inane Lennon-Ono song: 'War is over, if you want it.' So if we all close our eyes, and wish really, really hard, and say 'no more war!' or maybe march in a big demo, demanding that war and poverty disappear, voila! No more war, no more want. But human nature in this fallen world being what it is, that cannot happen.
And even during the periods when there was no declared war in which America was involved, during the Cold War, for example, it could hardly be said that 'peace' prevailed, not with the ever-looming fear of nuclear war, and of the total devastation an all-out nuclear exchange would have wrought. So technically we were not at war with Russia or China, but neither did we have peace. Peace is more than just an absence of declared war.
And now, in this post-9/11 world, with our 'no borders' policy, the threat is closer to home, right in our midst.
These are not easy times in which we live.
And goodwill toward men is just as elusive as peace, with our nations divided internally along political, ethnic, racial, and class lines, and nations against other nations.
Still, despite the turmoil and the danger of today's world, we hold fast to the dream of 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men.' Maybe the fact that we do is a testament to the human need for hope, to the stubbornness of the ideals enshrined in our hearts. The realists among us know that we can never achieve peace by human means, given our human nature. But those of us who are Christians, who honor the Prince of Peace at this season of his birth, know that only He can establish peace, and that he will do so one day.
Until then we are to "occupy", as the Bible says; to hold the fort, so to speak. That is all we can reasonably do: to maintain our position here; to stand our ground. We can't achieve peace on earth by our human efforts but we
don't yield to the forces of darkness in this ever-darkening world.
Some of the scholars and pedants will insist that Jesus Christ was not born at this time of year, and they can cite reasons for their opinion. But there is symbolic meaning to celebrating the birth of Jesus at the winter solstice. At this time of year, at least in the Northern hemisphere, light has retreated; the days are at their shortest, and the sun's light is wan, without much warmth. Then at the time of greatest darkness is the coming of the 'Light of the World'.
Now, it seems as though the darkness is gathering throughout the world, and now is the time for light to reassert itself and break forth to challenge the darkness.
Christmas symbolizes all of that, and it's fitting that we celebrate it at the darkest time of the year.
So as we await the true coming of the Light and the retreat of darkness, we can do our part to spread the light and warmth in this present darkness. At Christmas we focus on our own little realm, of kin and hearth and home, and share the light and warmth within that little circle. It's a time for turning inward to our own little family fortress, and a time to look to the past, to old days and old ways, and also a time to see the future in our young ones. In so doing, our spiritual strength is replenished so that again, we can again enter the fray, with renewed strength.
Speaking for myself, I plan my own personal 'cease-fire' on this blog; I'm a little battle-weary, and more than a little disgusted with the present news cycle. After Christmas I may blog on non-political matters for a few days. Politics, after all, is 'warfare by any other means', and it's a time to ''cease from anger, and forsake wrath".
At so, at this time when we turn to happier and more comforting thoughts, I wish all of you a Happy and Joyous Christmas season.

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