By Michael Moore —
It is January 9th and we have moved into the season of Epiphany.. It has been 16 days since we commemorated the birth of our Lord. What was the song of the angels on Christmas Eve? The angels who appeared to the Shepherds shared this hope and promise. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”–Luke 2:14
And on earth peace… ten days after many congregations sang these words bombs dropped and the call to war became shrill and noisy. The lines are being drawn as politicians echo soundbites and tweets for and against the bombing and killing in Iraq. Sadly I have seen this before. Politicians rattle their sabres while the ones who serve and the innocents caught in the line of fire will die. A heavy decision with incredible consequences was made behind closed doors without hearing all perspectives.
And on earth peace… On the tenth day of Christmas I picked up Bruce Epperly’s book, The Work of Christmas: The 12 Days of Christmas with Howard Thurman, which has been my companion during this time between Christmas and Epiphany. Imagine my shock when I read these words of Howard Thurman on January 3rd:
Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,
And the heart consumes itself, if it would live,
Where little children age before their time,
And life wears down the edges of mind,
Where the old person sits with mind grown cold,
While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day’s life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.
CHRISTMAS IS WAITING TO BE BORN:
In you, in me, in all humankind.
Epperly continues in his commentary to discuss the heartache Thurman referenced in the above poem.
Christmas comes to those with their backs against the wall, as Thurman asserts: working-poor shepherds, a family having to migrate to satisfy a dictator’s need for riches despite a mother’s pregnancy, infants murdered by a local ruler in his quest to destroy the Holy Child and his way of peace.
And as we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, we too witness wars and rumors of war. Swords are not beaten into plowshares but fashioned into drones, automatic weapons, and missiles. Nations continue to study war and encroach on their neighbors’ territories. Whole communities are annihilated, often inspired by religious ideology that separates faithful from infidel and “saved” from “unsaved.” (Epperly, pp. 72-73)
My heart is still heavy in this season when we remember how Christ was made manifest to the Gentiles with the visit of the Magi. To be honest, I am seeking light in this time of darkness. I am seeking the Spirit’s guidance as I attempt to walk the way of peace.
In the conclusion of his thoughts on the 10th day of Christmas, Epperly shared the story of the poem Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote following news of his son’s serious wounding in the Civil War. This portion of the poem, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, struck me:
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!”
I pray that I can follow my friend Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston who shared these words with our community on January 3rd:
I will not submit to the tyranny of despair or surrender to the threats of fear. Whatever I face in this life I face with the strength of the Spirit by my side. I am not afraid. I am not alone. Not even death itself can cause my heart to waver, for I have seen the far side of that river and I know I can cross it by the bridge of an everlasting mercy. Love is my shield and hope my expectation. Therefore, as long as I draw breath I will speak the words of welcome to any who will join me in the search for peace. I will strive to give as much as I can for the sake of those who have so little and I will rejoice in the happiness of others. I am a believer: a soul awake to its calling and a spirit alive to its full promise.
Will you join with me in prayer, dear reader? A prayer that involves words and action. Perhaps we can begin the task of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Perhaps then we can make the final words of Longfellow’s poem come to life.
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.”
In the words that close many of my Evening Prayers, I will close this blog:
Dona Nobis Pacem et in Terra
Grant Us Peace on Earth
To read more about Longfellow’s poem, please follow this link:
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I,too,have been reading Bruce Epperly’s The Work of Christmas. I was so pleased today when Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace arrived. They make perfect companion books.