As an elementary-age student, I sang in the school and church choirs and enjoyed it very much. One of the songs we performed almost every holiday season is a classic: “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
That introspective child in me always pondered the words to the tunes we sang, and the lyrics to this song stirred my heart in my youth because I could identify.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth the kind that was meant to be.
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.
I absorbed the words deeply and understood that peace began with me. My young heart also grasped that I should get along better with my brother. Sometimes as a child, my best friend or my worst enemy could be my brother in the flesh, with whom I was raised. Sometimes we fought terribly. And the older he got the worse I lost the conflicts, because he was growing stronger and more clever. On a very simple scale I knew what strife between siblings meant.
Still I knew that simple song of peace meant I should be at peace with my brother. The beauty of the birth of Messiah is the message of “Peace on earth–goodwill toward men.” Even a child can grasp that and apply it personally.
As an adult, I have made peace with wonderful brother forever, but I see other brothers on the face of this planet who have very complex problems that have raged for centuries. The result has been jealousy, war, murder, and death. The most obvious conflict is in the news daily between Israel and the Arab nations. It grows more intense daily and more are losing their lives. It is a serious life and death conflict that has spilled over into other ethnic groups and nations.
The conflict boils down to two ancient brothers at war: Ishmael and Isaac. Their roots are joined, but their paths have taken different directions. Both have vast promises of blessing in God’s Word and both are loved equally by God. Both have different callings and responsibilities.
I have always said the greatest testimony to the world to the existence of a loving God would be when these two brothers bury the hatchet and walk in peace.
It is possible!
And believe it or not, it is happening on a small scale in the Middle East today. I can’t name names, because some lives would be in danger, but restoration and harmony are springing up between these brothers. It is a true picture and fulfillment of what the angels proclaimed at Messiah’s birth long ago:
Peace on earth; goodwill toward men.
Before the return of Jesus, their numbers will increase into a great army of brothers who have forgiven each other and laid down their weapons of war.
This kind of peace does not come from a political leader–no matter how smart or handsome. It is freely given to all who hunger and thirst for that deep and enduring stream that flows from the cross of the promised Messiah, who became as a baby, died, and was raised from the dead.
At this season, I find myself engaged in prayer for these two brothers, for reconciliation, for true peace. Having lived in the Mid East and having befriended both Arabs and Jews, I understand that the problems run deep and are extremely complicated. There are no pat answers outside of the mighty love and healing power of Jesus. And there are believing Arabs and Jews who are building bridges of love, communication, and forgiveness even as I write this. It gives me great hope.
But today, I find myself singing along with the introspective little girl in sixth grade of long ago:
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…