Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

by Laura Walker Dunn · January 2018

This Christmas season we heard a lot about peace on earth. In Luke’s gospel, the angels comfort the shepherds in the field with the good news of Christ’s birth, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Christmas carols repeat the message:

Peace on the earth, good will to men, From heaven’s all-gracious King.”

“And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”

And finally:

“Let there be peace on earth 
And let it begin with me.”

 

How will that happen? Where do we start? Sounds like a tall order for one individual to fulfill.

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The holidays for many of us are anything but peaceful. We are plagued by expectations; the most persistent of which are the expectations we create for ourselves. And as writer Anne Lamott points out, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” Yet we wonder why we are so tired at the start of the new year. Tired and frazzled. Not feeling the peace on earth that the holiday season promised.

 

So given the circumstances, how can peace on earth begin with me? For starters, I can stop playing a role that demands perfection, that meets unrealistic expectations. If I find myself slipping into this mode of accommodation, of unrealistic demands, I need to shed these expectations and focus on the me that God wants me to be.

 

I inherited my father’s love of poetry and as a teenager came to appreciate a favorite poet of his, Edwin Arlington Robinson. For one of my teenage birthdays my parents gave me a thick volume of his collected works in which I browsed randomly for poems that had meaning for me.

One in particular became a poem I return to again and again when I doubt myself or my place in the world. I remind myself of its message when I start playing a role to meet expectations, my own or those of others.

 

The poem is a Christmas message appropriately entitled “Peace on Earth.” In it, the speaker strikes up a conversation with a “derelict” he passes on the busy city streets in the holiday season. The man is shouting to the passers-by, “peace on earth!”

 

When the speaker stops and asks the man “Do you believe in God? And is there to be Peace on Earth?” the derelict replies:

 

“Your world is in yourself, my friend,

For your endurance to the end;
And all the Peace there is on Earth
Is faith in what your world is worth,
And saying, without any lies,
Your world could not be otherwise.”

 

The wisdom in these words, not from scripture but from an unlikely source, reminds us of God’s message in the Christmas season and for all our days. As Jesus tells us, “behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” And to find peace we must have faith in the lives that God created just for us. And when things get tough, when we are feeling the weight of unrealistic expectations, most especially at the holiday season, we need to remember to live our lives “without any lies,” keeping faith in the worth of the kingdom of God that is in all of us.

 

Then and only then will we find this peace that is promised to us.

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