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The Peace Beyond Despair
Rev. Kate Lore, Social Justice Minister
First Unitarian Church of Portland
Archived 1/6/2011

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men”


~Unitarian minister Edward Hamilton Sear, 1849~


The shepherds saw one of the most amazing shows in the entire Bible. According to the Christmas story, an angel spoke to them and an entire heavenly host sang to them. What did they sing about? Peace.


For many of us, however, peace feels beyond our grasp—especially during this holiday season. We’ve grown disillusioned by the ongoing problems of war, terrorism, and climate change. We can’t fathom enduring another year of high unemployment rates and economic instability. We dread the thought of being trapped in the company of unkind family members, or—perhaps worse—being alone. With all of these challenges, where can we find this peace of which the angels sing?


And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.


The angels remind us that this is the season of rebirth and renewal, the season which every year offers the promise of the transformation of despair into hope. But we must first begin by listening to their songs. Peace will only come when we begin to embody them, when we begin to make them real in our personal lives and in the life of this nation.  


Whether celebrating Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice--or some combination thereof--let the many symbols and rituals of this season stir our hearts and minds and help us dwell in our souls. Let us extend our hands, to reach out across the divide that separates people from people. Let us believe and live in the hope for the fulfillment of the angels’ glorious prophesy—that someday all the world will be made one; that someday the guns will cease, the strife be ended and peace will not be merely a temporary truce but an eternal way of life; that someday the earth itself will rejoice and all her peoples sing with gladness together.


And in the meantime, may you and yours be blessed this holiday season with the strength to endure what must be endured, the compassion to love others despite their shortcomings, and the courage to imagine what yet can be. 
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