Tag Archives: Peace On Earth

On Linus van Pelt and Apollo 8 at Christmastime: Radio Essay for December 24, 2013

It is a well worn axiom that the more things change the more they stay the same. At 50 plus years, the decade of the 1960’s seems so long ago. Not surprisingly, life seemed very different then. But was it really? Let’s look at life in 1965. The war in Vietnam was ramping up to 190,000 fighting troops; the Watts section of Los Angeles was in flames; a first class stamp cost five cents. And “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted. It has run faithfully every year since then.

It turns out that Charlie Brown was unhappy about all of the commercialization that was overtaking Christmas and distracting from the true meaning of the holiday. That was almost 50 years ago. You couldn’t shop on Sundays in those days, the internet was decades away, and Black Friday had more significance in religious terms than in retail. Even Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s must trusted companion, got into the act, decorating his doghouse with colorful lights. Charlie Brown’s younger sister, Sally, had an exhaustive list for Santa that she feared might be too complicated. She suggested that Santa just send money, preferably in 10’s and 20’s. Did I mention that Lucy wanted real estate for Christmas?

It’s no wonder that Charlie Brown was dismayed. Leave it to Lucy’s younger brother Linus to tell us what Christmas was all about.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

Linus quoted scripture. On TV. He was right, that is what Christmas is all about. And to think that it took an animated cartoon character to bring it all together for us as a nation, reminding us of a message that has stood for more than two thousand years. They don’t make much television like that anymore. There is more of a loss than the frenzy of shopping madness that has enveloped the holiday and the political correctness that makes us feel more than a little out of order when we wish each other a Merry Christmas.

It has been forty five years since man first orbited the moon on Apollo 8. The astronauts that evening recited from the Book of Genesis. First, William Anders spoke. He addressed his comments “for all the people of the earth” as he began with, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Jim Lovell, who later commanded the ill-fated Apollo 13, described the second day when God separated the night from the day. Finally, Frank Borman described the creation of the dry land and the seas.

These were men of faith who were not afraid to share that faith with literally billions of people on the fragile planet that they, for the first time with human eyes, would watch rise above the lunar horizon. There is that iconic photo that revealed to us just how much we are dependent upon one another on this earth for its continued survival. Their very orbit around the moon convinced us that we had no other place in which to seek refuge and that we had better find a way to get along.

At a winter concert this year at a public school on Long Island, the Christmas carol “Silent Night” was edited to omit any reference to the Holy Infant or Christ the Savior. So far we have come from the the decade where Linus and Apollo 8 could reach out to us in scripture. In retrospect and with today’s emphasis of political correctness and the sense of absolute separation of all things spiritual from anything governmental, reading from the Christian bible from space seems quite a risky proposition. And so does Linus reading from the Book of Luke about the birth of the Savior.

Personally, I believe that a God, my God, created the heavens and the earth. It is not my desire to pressure anyone else into thinking likewise. I simply profess what I believe with respect for the beliefs of others. I am happy that Linus van Pelt reached out across our nation with a story of the meaning of Christmas without offending the nation much in the same way that the astronauts of Apollo 8 chose to reach out across the planet in describing the wonder creation to an expectant world.

So, on this Christmas Eve, I will close with the heartfelt and poignant words of Frank Borman emerging from the shadow of the moon in 1968: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God Bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”

Press on.

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On Resurrection: Essay for April 7, 2012

To all Christians around the globe, Easter is resurrection. Could there be a time or event bleaker than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Yet after only three days, Christ rose again from the dead as the Savior to the world. It remains the most optimistic event of all time.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that 86% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ walked this earth. And 77% believe that he rose from the dead to be our Savior. I take solace in these statistics reported by Scott Rasmussen because I sometimes think that people have lost faith. These figures suggest that maybe they have merely lost faith in their religion. Otherwise our pews would be full.

There is an old adage of which I have grown fond: Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.
Mixing politics with religion on the eve of the most holy of days in the Christian calendar is not my intent here. My intent is simply to take the next 24 hours to reflect on what is right and what is wrong with and in America. Make a list. Look it over. Does anything even approach the Crucifixion? It does not.

We Americans may be pessimistic about the course our country is on whether it is in our government, our neighborhood, or our sense of morality or our interdependence as a community of man. All of these problems were caused by man and should be able to be solved by man.

I heard President Obama address newspaper editors this past week. If one were to strip away the party demagoguery for a moment and look at the one-liners that described the state of affairs in our country on matters of great import, it might be very difficult to determine which party created
what problem. And it is equally difficult to determine which party today holds the sword to cut through the Gordian knot of our dilemma.

If only there was one more strong voice to call upon.

There is one method, frequently overlooked, that we might utilize to access that additional strong voice that might accelerate the solutions to the many problems we face. We access that voice through prayer. This is not prayer to an iconic donkey or elephant. It is prayer to the One who created us all, heaven and earth.

The Environmental Protection Agency may regulate the air and water but it was the Creator who first gave them to us; The Food and Drug Administration may regulate what we put into our bodies but it was the Creator who put the seed on this planet. I think you get my point. If we are so determined to divine how our live should be lived on this Earth, why don’t we simply cut right to the Divine One and ask our God through prayer?

I know who my God is and I will celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday as an extension of my worship throughout the year. I know that I do not pray as often as I should but I believe in the healing power of prayer and the clarity that it can bring.

I am a navigator by training and I know that it is always darkest before the dawn. And when dawn did break for me at sea, the stars appeared in their places, set there by our Creator, to guide me on course. Maybe it is time to take a bit of a break from the false gods of social media and cable television and Hollywood.

It is time for us to call on the A Team. And we do that through prayer. It is not the end.

I wish to all my fellow believers a Happy Easter.

Press on.

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On Peace on Earth: Video Essay for December 24, 2011

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On Peace on Earth: Essay for December 24, 2011

As December 25th draws close every year I think we all begin to wish for a calmness to settle over us. I know I purposely squint my eyes to create a gauzy glow to filter out the bad news and seek more uplifting stories of human triumph. Amid the din of sad news there is often a silver lining of some sort. Like the unexpectedly good B-side of an old 45 single, there are stories of Peace on Earth this year. Sometimes they strike you immediately; sometimes you have to look hard for them; and sometimes they emerge from despair.

Take the Women’s World Cup soccer final between a heavily favored US team and the very much underdog Japan team, only four months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Honshu. It was a special match from the onset as the Japanese team unfurled a banner of thanks to a generous world in the aftermath of the destruction. Their confidence grew in direct proportion to their level of play as they ultimately took down the giant US team on penalty kicks. The significance of the event was not lost on the US team as both teams joined in on the joyous celebration, cementing this event as a bona fide Peace on Earth moment.

Some acts of peace don’t end well for the messenger but have the power to transform by their sheer courage. The name Mohammed Bouazizi may not strike a familiar cord to most. In Tunisia, he was the street vendor whose self-immolation defined defiance of the Tunisian regime. His death sparked demonstrations that led to riots that led to the Arab Spring. The Near East will not be the same for another generation or more. And while the road to a peace will be a difficult one, Bouazizi’s death may someday be viewed as a turning point against autocracy and tyranny. He posted this on Facebook before his death:

“I’m traveling, mom. Put no blame on me. I’m lost in a road I have not chosen. Forgive me if I ever disobeyed you. Blame these days, don’t blame me. I’m leaving with no return. I’ve had enough of crying and no tears came out of my eyes. There’s no need to blame this age of treachery in this estranged land. I’m tired and putting everything behind. I’m traveling and I’m wondering if the travel will help me forget.”

Ironically, sometimes acts of extreme violence clear the way for acts of peace. We reserve a very small space in history for people whom we believe to be better off dead than alive. Osama bin Laden is such a man. When the US Navy’s SEAL Team Six daringly assaulted his compound and killed the man who was the architect of some of the most dastardly terrorist attacks in history, the world was a little closer to Peace on Earth. Unfortunately, it was just a little bit.
That Peace on Earth is an elusive goal is no secret. That is why we use upper case letters as if it is a chapter title in some book. At an individual level, the lower case “p” level, we can look to acts of peace on earth all around us. I see peace as I pass by Hopedale Pond as the mist forms in the early morning; I see peace in a sunrise as the rays pierce the darkness; I see peace in the eyes of children as they sing carols to the elderly whose memories are wonderfully jarred by the familiar strains of harmony; I see peace in the efforts of families heading home for the holidays to the one place they know they can be at peace; I see peace in the Christmas Story as told by the apostles.

We all wish we could magically grant the upper case Peace on Earth to all citizens of this planet. Woefully, we cannot. But we can work our magic one person, one act at a time; keeping close to mind the teachings of our faith to treat our fellow man as we would have them treat us. That would be a great start. And from what the sacrifice of Mohammed Bouazizi taught us, great starts are often all it takes.
I wish for all of you this holiday season a lower case peace on earth and a very Merry Christmas.

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