Dec 14, 2015

Peace on Earth

It's early in the morning. The lights are glowing on the tree and on the fireplace mantle, a warm and tender reminder of Christmases past. It's quiet in the house now as my three not-so-small boys are still in their slumber. It's Christmas time, a time for joy and peace on earth. I'm attempting to capture the sugar plum fairies dancing around in my head...because something seems a little "off" this year.

Every year is a struggle to scrape and dig past the commercialism and consumerism that has become synonymous with the Christmas season. Somewhere between the green and red plastic trees and the "Santa, Baby" songs is a point. A very fine point that the vast majority misses. Every. Single. Year.

We tend to miss it because it is easy to miss. 

There is nothing in Scripture that commands we honor this Holy Night. There is no instruction to follow that even suggests it. A Christian will truly celebrate Christmas out of the overflow of the heart...out of the love that pours from a swell of the heart that was born in a stable 2,000 years ago. 

But somehow the truth of this story has been buried beneath a mountain of boxes covered in pretty paper and debt to the ceiling. Even Hallmark movies tell us we want Christmas to be about the heart and relationship, but we have to dig it out of the pile first.

This has been an ongoing issue for the believer in this country for decades. But recently, there has been another darker, more suffocating cloud hovering over this time of year. We seek joy and peace on earth, yet we are bombarded by the media of our day. We are immediately made aware of instances of adversity, hostility, lunacy, political failures, et cetera ad nauseam. Rarely do we see thrust before us for our viewing pleasure the soup kitchens serving Christmas dinner to the homeless, families by the hundreds supplying coats, boots, blankets, diapers, and toys for those who have nothing, or food pantries doling out canned goods to those fallen on hard times. Stories of prisoners kneeling by their bedside holding a Bible and a sliver of hope for redemption seldom make the cut for our news sources. These things happen all the time, but their stories are scarce compared to the shocking tales that "sell". We are inundated with the negative and anemic when it comes to anything positive.

There is a song that was released several years ago by Casting Crowns (one of my most favorite groups) and the song is entitled "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." It speaks to the dissonance we experience this time of year in a way that for years now has deeply stirred my heart. If we don't quiet our souls from the noise of our consumerism, we'll never hear the bells.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet, their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they're singing (Peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

The author is recounting the surface sights and sounds of the season. It looks good and sounds good - we enjoy the decorations and Christmas carols during the last weeks of the year (or most of us do). But in the next verse, we see his conflict - one that, if we will look introspectively, we can all identify with:

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

But the bells are ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (Peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

If anything, peace on earth is a treasured, but terribly deficient thing. A cursory glance at the Middle East (particularly in and around Israel) and north Africa, as well as cities like Paris, Chattanooga, Colorado Springs, and San Bernardino will bring home the point. A skim of any major news outlet's headlines will help to solidify the point: men bring almost anything but peace to earth.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
(Peace on Earth, peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth is not meant to be brought by mere men. We are incapable. Peace on earth and good will toward men...comes from above. Good will toward men is initiated by God in heaven and exemplified by a Baby born from heaven. Peace personified has walked on the earth, and it currently resides in the hearts of those who bend the knee and bow their hearts to the King of kings born humbly in a manger.

Then ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing (Peace on Earth)
Like a choir they're singing (Peace on Earth)
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

The bells of Christmas are singing that Peace on earth has indeed come, and until He comes again, we'll hear it only in our hearts. But this also has the desired result for the individual who opens their heart to the song: good will toward his fellow men.

Do you hear the bells they're ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The life the angels singing (Peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (Peace on Earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men