In this season of “peace on earth,” you wouldn’t think so—shopping at Wal Mart or living in Mumbai.
In this season of “peace on earth,” you wouldn’t think so—shopping at Wal Mart or living in Mumbai. In one of those strange twists of coincidence both stories ran over “Black Friday” last weekend (that notorious day-after-Thanksgiving shopping nightmare). At the Wal Mart on Long Island frenzied Christmas shoppers broke down the door and trampled a Wal Mart employee to death as they rushed in to purchase their list-topping gifts for loved ones—nevermind that nobody stopped to love the one who was on the ground fighting for his last breath. Nobody stopped to help either. So much for capitalism’s ballyhooed evolution toward economic freedom and sanity, both of which were stunningly absent amongst those early morning shoppers last week. Also playing non-stop on the same 24-hour cable news outlets, of course, was the tragedy of Mumbai (the picturesque Bombay I have twice visited). And while the kinship between India and America has forged new empathies, the somber reality is that terrorism has now become such a planetary staple no surprise remains the world-over for its latest visitations. Two thousand years ago above a benighted Bethlehem field, that angelic Christmas choir proclaimed in surround-sound glory the hope of the Newborn in yonder manger: “‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors’” (Luke 2:14 NRSV). Surely the “God in the highest heaven” favors his earth children, doesn’t he? Then what will it take for that “peace on earth” to become more than a prayer on earth? Perhaps it will take the quiet choice not to live out the Wal Mart Christmas frenzy that lurks in us all. Perhaps with an economy tanking faster than the headlines, this is the Christmas we can choose not to reward our credit card companies with the usual pro forma and obligatory gift exchanges. What would happen if this year we chose instead to give the gift of “peace on earth”—and volunteer our services at a soup kitchen, or donate last year’s hardly used Christmas gifts to the Goodwill center nearby, or invite a lonely or needy family home for dinner, or make private peace overtures to one we’ve kept on our “enemies list,” or seek to forge a new year friendship with someone of another faith or no faith at all? (Still not sure? Then check out www.adventconspiracy.org for a 2-minute video that will change your mind!) Perhaps we shouldn’t wait for the angels to deliver peace. Maybe it best arrives on earth one life at a time, living out the faith of the Newborn in the everyday realities of the earthbound.