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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Let there be peace on earth...and let it begin with me

In 1955, a song hit the airwaves sung by Vince Gill and which is often associated with the Christmas season.  For most of us younger than our 50's, this song may not have much meaning, but when we take a step back in time, we might be surprised at the history of the song, "Let There Be Peace On Earth".  Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller actually penned the lyrics to this song, but you may be surprised as to the "why" behind the lyrics.  Jill was suicidal after a failed marriage (something quite scandalous and still not "socially acceptable" in the mid-fifties).  Yet, in the midst of her sorrow and agony over her loss, she found hope.  In her account of how she came to write these lyrics, she said it was as a result of finding "the life-saving joy of God's peace and unconditional love".  This song has been sung in times when war was ravaging countries, pleading for those warring factions to lay down their weapons and take up the call to peace.  It has been sung at rallies to encourage the integration of all walks of life, not excluding one race over another, but calling for each individual to be respected and honored.  I doubt she knew the impact of her words as she penned them that day more than half a century ago, but these words continue to be sung by choral groups everywhere - most unknowingly sharing the story of God's peace and unconditional love! 

Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit. (Ephesians 2:14-18 CEV)

In 1955, Rosa Parks set the wheels in motion to begin what most have come to know as the "Civil Rights Movement", as she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person in Montgomery, Alabama.  In Britain, the newspapers were actually halted for about one month as strikers took to the streets in Fleet Street.  Great Britain was plagued by a rail strike, causing huge disturbances in the travel throughout the country.  The U.S. was engaged in military action from 1950-1954 in the Korean War.  In 1955, the first military advisers were sent into Vietnam.  The world was in chaos in the 50's.  With events ranging from natural disasters like Hurricane Diane hitting the East Coast and killing nearly 200 people with over one billion dollars in damage, or the unrest caused by poor pay or a lack of respect of human rights, and young men being sent into combat zones and police action across the world, the climate was "ripe" for the call to peace.  

One thing, and one thing alone, truly brings peace.  Jill Jackson Miller could not have said it better than she did when she penned the words of the song!  The first verse goes like this: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.  I would interject this interpretation:  With God as our father...brothers all are we.  With God as our father...sisters all are we.  With God as our father...let there be peace.  With God as our father...let that peace be seen in me.  With God as our father...let peace flow from me.

Back in the times of Jesus' walking upon this earth, he began a "movement" to set people at "peace with God".  In turn, his desire was that "movement" which began in our hearts would become a means of uniting us together in peace with one another.  It is God's intent that our hearts find peace with him.  It is his joy when that peace begins to flood out from us and affect the world around us!  Thinking back to the circumstances which plagued the heart of Jill Jackson Miller prior to writing this song, we might see how much she was in chaos.  A heart contemplating suicide, despondent over life's challenges and disappointments, crying out for something or someone to take it all away.  This is where God works best, my friends! In the midst of our messy lives, he comes to bring peace.  Nothing quite measures up to his peace, for his peace is eternal (everlasting and unconditional).  

Tapping into the peace of God is what helps us go through the weighty times of despair others often crumble under.  There is nothing more liberating than peace, for the heart is able to soar where peace is the banner flying high.  What is it which brings peace?  It is love. Jill said it best when she shared the "why" behind her song of praise to God.  His love, unconditional and all-encompassing, enveloped her in a blanket of peace.  It can do the same for each of us, if we are willing to allow him the access to our messy lives.  We don't know the joy of peace until we experience the delight of his unconditional love.  Just sayin!