"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

Friday, December 12, 2003
 
On Peace on Earth:

As I was driving to work this morning, a stalled car caused me to spend a little longer on a street than I otherwise would have. That extra time gave me a chance to see a house that I would’ve missed on a normal day. The house’s holiday display was simple, but struck me as very profound. There was a lit sign on the front porch with a one word message on it.

PEACE.

The wish for Peace has been part of Christmas since Christmas became Christmas. It began, as is stated in the second chapter of Luke, with shepherds watching their flocks by night. The birth of Christ was announced by an angel who was then joined by a heavenly chorus who is quoted as singing:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14

Christmas carols such as “Far, Far, Away on Judea’s Plains”, and “Angels We Have Heard on High” are replete with the repetition of the phrase “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” There is one carol, however, that isn’t sung very often unless your church service happens to fall on a Christmas Sunday.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words to the poem that would become the hymn “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Longfellow penned these words on December 25, 1864 during the final winter of the Civil War – six months from the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox Court House. His words come from tragedy, as his wife Fanny was killed and son Charles crippled during that conflict. I quote from Longfellow:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


The following two stanzas are omitted from the current version of the carol, but I find in them similarities to the world of today:

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!


The war of which Longfellow spoke was fought in the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Antietem, Shiloh, Gettysburg, and many more. Indeed the Civil War was the last time a war was waged on the soil of the continental United States. The last that is, until a quiet Tuesday morning in September of 2001.

That morning, the battlefield began in Manhattan, proceeded to Arlington, and ended in a field not too far from Gettysburg. From those beginnings, it has moved to Khandahar, Kabul, Tikrit, Mosul, and Baghdad.

Far away places with strange sounding names.

There are those who would hear the next stanza of Longfellow’s poem and declare it to be the current state of the world.

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"


As I have stated in previous blogs, these people spend most of their life sucking on pickles. Longfellow continues:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"


Peace is a very powerful force, however it does not naturally occur in the world. Certain conditions must exist for peace to prevail – principle among them being the defeat of evil foes. Some may think peace is the absence of conflict, but in truth , peace is brought about by the appropriate use of overwhelming force against an enemy. Never forget those whose job it is to create peace.

I believe it was for this purpose the Son of Man, whose birth was heralded by a chorus of innumerable angels, included the following passage in what would become some of his most memorable teachings:

“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5:9

May God watch over His Peacemakers. May He, through them, create peace where there is war and calm where there are storms. May He protect them from those who would do them harm. And, when their duties are completed, may He bring them home with fair winds on calm seas.

Here endeth the lesson.

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