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2019-12-12

From the Sabbatical Minister - December 12, 2019

In the Christian tradition, December 1-24 is the season of Advent – understood as a time for considering the coming – and the second coming – of the Christ; it ends on Christmas Day, with the words from the Book of Revelation, “joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

But in the meantime – the month is filled with waiting: waiting for joy, waiting for hope, waiting for peace, waiting for love, waiting for the child, waiting for grace.

It is in this time of Advent that we take time – and fortunately, we have music libraries filled with holiday songs to make the waiting less difficult (sometimes filling us with nostalgia, sometimes bringing us cheer, and sometimes annoying us – I’m looking at you, “Little Drummer Boy”). Over the next four weeks, I’ll be exploring the themes of Advent through the lens of some of my most beloved and cherished holiday songs.

"Peace Carol"

In 1979, in the midst of the energy crisis, the Iran hostage crisis, and the coldest winter we’d ever seen, a gentle, funny, and perfect little Christmas special showed up on television – John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

In this one hour special that later become a beloved Christmas album (and remains my favorite), we were treated to a very funny “Twelve Days of Christmas,” a reggae version of “Christmas Is Coming,” Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem rocking out on “Little Saint Nick,” and a tender duet of Rowlf and John singing last week’s song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

But the song that stands out for me – and speaks to me of the peace we seek in Advent – is “The Peace Carol,” written by 60s folk musician Bob Beers:

The garment of life, be it tattered and torn
the cloak of the soldier is withered and worn
But what child is this that was poverty-born
The peace of Christmas Day

The branch that bears the bright holly
The dove that rests in yonder tree
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day

The hope that has slumbered for two thousand years
the promise that silenced a thousand fears
A faith that can hobble an ocean of tears
The peace of Christmas Day

The branch that bears the bright holly
The dove that rests in yonder tree
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day

Add all the grief that people may bear
Total the strife, the troubles and care
Put them in columns and leave them right there
The peace of Christmas Day

The branch that bears the bright holly
The dove that rests in yonder tree
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day

This song reminds us that we bear all kinds of pains, sorrows, and troubles – and that this season invites us to make space for beauty, for love, for light, for peace. I imagine that in 1979, with the energy crisis raging on, with the memory of Watergate still lingering, with turmoil in the Middle East resulting in Americans being held hostage in Iran, with inflation rising and an election on the way, this song mattered.

And it still matters. Maybe even more now than ever, as we find ourselves in a time of crisis and unrest. For me, this song reminds me that in the midst of the busy-ness, and in the midst of the anxieties this season can bring, there is peace to be found when take a moment to stop, be still, and give thanks.

Advent points us toward peace – peace of mind, peace of the present moment, peace for our world.

Watch this performance from the original TV special:


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