Monday, December 25, 2017

On The First Day Of Christmas: Caroling Peace

Our carols celebrate God's peace 'on earth as it is in heaven.'
For two millennia Christians have celebrated the advent of Peace on earth and goodwill to men, women, children, neighbors and strangers alike with carols proclaiming an end to war-making.

Yet only a small fraction of professed Christians ever question the path to utter destruction and carnage preparations for war are taking us. In a nation in which millions claim allegiance to the Prince of Peace, we are seeing ever more headlines such as the following:

"9,000-11,000 Civilians Killed in Retaking Mosul, at Least a Third by Allied Bombs"

"President Promotes Largest Ever $700 Billion Defense Budget"

"Commitment to Negotiation Limited--America's New Strategy is 'Peace Through Strength'"

"US Prepared to Utterly Destroy North Korea, Threatening Nuclear Holocaust"

By contrast, here are some direct references to peace on earth in our Christmas hymns and carols:

O come, O come, Immanuel  -  anonymous, 6th and 7th century (v.1-4), Henry Sloane Coffin, 1916 (during WW I) v.5-6

     "Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease, fill the whole with heaven's peace"

Comfort, comfort O my people  -  Johannes Olearius, 1671

     "Speak unto Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them,
     Tell of all the sins I cover, and that warfare now is over"

To us a child of hope is born  -  Isaac Watts, 1719

     "His name shall be the Prince of Peace...
     Justice shall guard his throne above, and peace abound below"

It came upon a midnight clear  - Edmund H. Sears, 1849

     "Peace on the earth, goodwill to all from heavens all gracious king...
     ...Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long...
     ...warring humankind hears not the tidings which they bring,
     O hush the noise and cease your strife and hear the angels sing."

    "For lo the days are hastening on by prophet bards foretold
     when with the everlasting years comes round the age of gold
     when peace shall over all the earth ts ancient splendors fling
     and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing."

Joy to the world  -  Isaac Watts, 1719

     "He rules the world with truth and grace, 
     and makes the nations prove 
     the glories of his righteousness 
     and wonders of his love."

Hark! the herald angels sing  -  Charles Wesley, 1739

     "Peace on the earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled…
    Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace..."

O holy night  -  Adolphe Adam, 1874

    "Truly He taught us to love one another;
      His law is love and His gospel is peace.
     Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
     And in His name all oppression shall cease."

I heard the bells on Christmas day - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1863 (during the Civil War)

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!

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!

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!"

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."

Bless'd be the God of Israel 
-  Michael Perry, 1973

     " guide the feet of pilgrims along the path of peace."

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