Peace on Earth

Over two thousand years ago, a heavenly choir gathered to perform one of the most exciting concerts ever. It was an outdoor performance to only a select few – a handful of shepherds and their flocks in the hills outside of Bethlehem. The message of the music was simple: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14.)

Of course, the choir was there to help announce the birth of the one who many now call the Savior. And His message is one of peace. Shortly before His crucifixion, He said to His apostles, “Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27.)

But where is that peace today? All around us we see, hear and often live just the opposite. War, murder, road rage, contention, violence, distrust, revenge, anger, death, destruction, anguish, brutality, bullying, abuse, despair, sorrow, shattered hopes, heartache, disappointment, hatred.  These are not just words we know; we often live them – whether we want to or not.

I remember as a young boy, sitting in church this time of year, singing the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The chorister abruptly ended the song after the third verse:

  • 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 goodwill to men

I remember thinking, what kind of Christmas carol is that? But I’m older now, and perhaps a little wiser. I admit, with the news each day filled with violence, hatred and tragedy, I often feel the same way as Longfellow did.

World peace is on the Christmas wish list of many. We hope that world leaders, through treaties, cease fires, pacts and other agreements, will bring us peace. Ironically, world peace really begins with each of us individually. If each individual, regardless of belief or religion, could radiate the true spirit of Christmas, then every home would radiate peace. A thousand such homes would build a truly peaceful city, and a thousand such cities would bring the beginning of peace on earth for everyone.

So what keeps us from experiencing peace? Often is it because we let anger get the best of us – even when we feel we are justified.  As Halifax said, “Anger is seldom without an argument, but seldom with a good one.” I have always loved this clip from Happy Gilmore*:

It usually takes two people to make one of them angry. Often, our anger arises from a simple misunderstanding. We don’t hear something correctly, or the story changes as it goes from person to person. Or as we lawyers like to say, we assume facts not in evidence. Speaking of lawyers, enjoy this clip from Erin Brockovich**:

Often our anger emanates from a desire to get even, a desire for revenge, which King Arthur, in the movie, Camelot, calls “the most worthless of causes.” But revenge is like biting a dog because the dog bit you. Or as the movie, Seabiscuit*** illustrates, the time spent getting even is much better used getting ahead:

Often, the acts of violence we experience are the result of one person exercising power and control over us. The victims of domestic abuse, rape and bullying feel helpless under the power and control of the perpetrator. Even those in war are often the “victims” of their superior officers. But studies have shown, for example, that if even one person stands up to a bully, the bullying will stop. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I love this scene from Eye in the Sky**** showing how, even in the military, raising an issue can lead to a more peaceful solution:

An even better solution might be to follow the advice of the person whose birth we are celebrating: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44.) As this clip from The War***** illustrates, it really can be done:

With William Gladstone, I “look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.” As the carol says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” This Christmas, let’s give some of the gifts suggested by someone I admire:

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again. (Howard W. Hunter)

These are the truly special gifts we can give this holiday season. Happy holidays to all, and may you and yours enjoy peace.

                                                                          

*Happy Gilmore

  • Production: Universal Pictures, Brillstein-Grey Enertainment and Robert Simonds Productions
  • Directed: Dennis Dugan
  • Screenplay: Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler
  • Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald and Jule Bowen
  • Release Date: February 16, 1996

**Erin Brockovich

  • Production: Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Jersey Films
  • Directed: Steven Soderbergh
  • Screenplay: Susannah Grant
  • Starring: Julia Roberts and Albert Finney
  • Release Date: March 17, 2000

***Seabiscuit

  • Production: Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Spyglass Entertainment
  • Directed: Gary Ross
  • Screenplay: Gary Ross (based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand)
  • Starring: Toby Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Elizabeth Banks
  • Release Date: July 25, 2003

****Eye in the Sky

  • Production: Raindog Films, Entertainment One
  • Directed: Gavin Hood
  • Screenplay: Guy Hibbert
  • Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
  • Release Date: March 11, 2016

*****The War

  • Production: Island World
  • Directed: Jon Avnet
  • Screenplay: Kathy McWorter
  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Kevin Costner, Mare Winningham
  • Release Date: Noveber 4, 1994

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s