It was the hopeful message of a recent Microsoft commercial during this year’s holiday season. If you missed it, the spot showed Microsoft employees walking out of their NYC retail store singing “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” As they walked, it soon became clear that the intended audience was their biggest competitor. The commercial ended with the Microsoft choir being hugged and thanks by employees from the nearby Apple store. It was a lovely moment and a beautiful truce, if only for the holiday. I loved the sentiment though.
Where is this peace on earth we sing about and long for and pray for in our churches? Is it possible for us to have even momentary peace? Will we ever learn to get along with those who are different from us? If you turn on the news, there’s evidence almost daily of increasing racial conflict and discrimination against those who aren’t Anglo. All too frequently we learn of the latest tragic mass shooting in America and take sides on what should be done about it. As our role models, we hear of presidential hopefuls tweeting vicious and hate filled messages contrived to please their voter base and attract momentary attention. Whatever happened to statesmanship and allowing for differences of opinion? For that matter, what happened to common decency and respect for persons? When we label others as “stupid, stupid people” simply because we don’t agree with them, we can be sure that’s pure Ego talking, probably out of fear. These noisy and unnecessarily aggressive displays are likely a smokescreen for fear of losing face. They are irresponsible and undignified, and in no way lead to peace on earth.
With all this and more as our starting place, what would peace on earth even look like? What about making it less global and more local? The last verse of the song says, “and let it begin with me.” So what can I do to encourage peace in my little corner of the earth? Richard Rohr has another helpful guideline for us in saying, “Whenever possible, seek the common good over your mere private good.” Maybe peace begins with basic human kindness, with focusing less on ourselves and looking for ways to show mercy and spread love, to forgive when we are offended instead of reacting, to let things go and choose the higher road. Maybe we could try to understand others and have compassion, to find common ground with those who are different from us. We might find we are not so different after all.
Maybe it will come from the next generation.
I just read in the Sunday Globe about a local group of teens in Natick, Massachusetts coming together to create a community garden to supply food to local shelters. It was the dream of Rev. Eric Markman to produce a garden that “grows peace as well as food.” Markman said, “It’s fear that causes us to become violent with each other. When religious groups work together instead of against one another, we can create heaven on earth.” Recently he must have felt his dream had come to life. Over Thanksgiving weekend, 60 or so teens and adult supervisors gathered from Temple Israel of Natick, the Islamic Society of Framingham, Eliot Church of South Natick, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Hartford Street Presbyterian. Together they prepared 60 raised beds for growing vegetables for local food pantries. As they worked, they discussed faith and service and the link between the two in their respective traditions. The article said, “By discovering common interests and goals while working, talking, eating and laughing together,” Markman believes, “these future leaders learn tolerance and respect for others’ religious traditions that will last a lifetime.”
That sounds a lot like peace on earth. It makes me want to look for ways in my own community to be inclusive and sow seeds of kindness. Compassion is the one thing that most reflects God’s love to the world.
So let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.