Thursday, December 3, 2015

Peace on Earth, Good-Will to Men

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
With the confluence of the Advent season and mass shootings occurring at (what should be) alarming rates, I am reminded of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "Christmas Bells." It was penned during a time of great personal pain for Longfellow. As the Civil War raged, Longfellow lamented the loss of his wife to a terrible accident and the near-fatal injuries his son had sustained in battle. He described the dissonance within his own heart at hearing Christmas bells wring out, "Peace on earth, good-will to men!" while his own experiences demonstrated anything but.
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 even as Longfellow's circumstances truly were terrible, they would not get the final word. Instead, he turned his attention to what he knew to be true about the loving God who superintends those circumstances:
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."
This Christmas season, may the bells (and all the other trappings) of Christmas remind us that just as Jesus came once, he is coming again. And when he does, he will set all things to rights, for it is his heart that there should be "peace on earth, good-will toward men." In a world filled with so much Wrong, I can think of no greater encouragement than the knowledge that the Right will indeed prevail!

But let's take it a step further, shall we? For if this idea of "peace on earth, good-will to men" is important to Jesus, then it should also be important to those of us who are his followers. Therefore, let us take tangible steps to promote peace, to demonstrate good-will:
  • Love your neighbor, even when they're not very lovely
  • Forgive those who have wronged you, even though they don't deserve it
  • Seek reconciliation with those with whom you are at odds
  • Focus less on how we've been wronged (be it as individuals or as a group) and spend more time prayerfully considering where we might have been wronged by others
  • Humbly seek forgiveness from others regardless of whether they're willing to admit the wrong that they've done
  • Pray (really pray) for those who are your enemies 
  • Show respect to everyone, as those who bear the image of God, even if you disagree vehemently with them on the most fundamental and important of issues
In doing these types of things, we will truly be followers of Christ, those who are about "peace on earth, good-will to men."

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