This year I just could not get Jaroslav Vajda's text and Carl Schalk's Christmas melody out of my mind. Its words and tune are haunting in a world longing for peace, hope, and love. It is not hard to see how it has become so popular because the marriage of word and song have made the carol seem as if it were not new (1979) but as old as the great and familiar carols of Christmas and Epiphany.
Listen to the carol.
The last lines of the first stanza are particularly profound: Sing peace, sing peace, sing Gift of Peace, Sing peace, sing Gift of Peace! A sky torn apart with light. And end to fear and death and sorrow. A teasing taste of what they miss. Love that we have always known, now to the loveless would be shown. Into one song compress. The lines just ring out for a time such as this.
What our hearts, lives, and world longs for above everything else is the Gift of Peace. What we desire is not some artificial absence of conflict or papered over differences that mask but do not end every cause for division. What our hearts burn for is that peace that Jesus offers, the peace the world neither knows nor can it give. This peace is not the fruit of our own efforts or the result of circumstances that finally fall into place for us. This peace is a Child in a manger to fulfill all promises, shepherds that left their flocks to see, angels who sing into the darkness of life and light, Magi who come so far to visit Him whom they do not know. This peace is a man standing in the Jordan River where we should have stood, calling disciples, manifesting the Kingdom in words and works, and revealing the glory of the only Son of the Father in surprising ways. All the upset of our past, all the regrets that still wound us, all the intentions left unfulfilled, and all the hopes and dreams of what might be are all met in the desire to know peace, perfect peace, the peace that passes understanding. We have not only this hunger in us but also a restlessness fed by all the uncertainties around us and encouraged by all our fears. Like Augustine, we find no peace until we rest in Christ the sins that terrify our conscience, the death that hangs like a shadow over our days, and the hope for something more than the world can give.
Sing peace, sing Gift of Peace. . .