Written by Ron Miller & Bryan Wells and brought to our ears by Stevie Wonder, Someday at Christmas was released to the world in November of 1967. As one of mainstream music's first Christmas songs with an intentional social and political message, the song pressed for an end to the Vietnam War and called for compassion and peace. The opening lines ring powerfully to the listener:
Someday at Christmas men won't be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free
Only a few short weeks later, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would share his last Christmas sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. One can imagine that Stevie Wonder's words rang through King's mind as he brought forth the sermon, "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men." In the same spirit as Wonder, King shared how the world was sick with war and was in need of a Christmas hope rooted in freedom and compassion.
How sad it is to see that the words of the famed song and sermon are present this Christmas, as well. We do not have to look far to recognize that these themes are worthy of consideration: tensions in North Korea, tensions between Israel and Palestine, and the still present tensions with the war against ISIS. And given the actions of our country over the past year, the Council on Foreign Relation's Center for Preventive Action has labeled the US as, "the most unpredictable actor in the world today." The gospel-writers hope for “Peace on Earth” (Luke 2:14) is a very real and tangible charge. So how does the world, and congregations, in particular, move towards this end in times where peace seems so unlikely?
King offers a critical response worthy of reflection by declaring that our loyalties must become ecumenical. "Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation."
International conflicts, issues of national healthcare, national disasters, budget and revenue allocations for Illinois state, sustainable accountability measures for law enforcement, quality education for all children, and so many more problems of the current age, require interventions of enormous proportion. Solutions to these problems are rooted in the need for Christians, Muslims, Jews, people of all faith - and even those of no faith - to work together. Our futures are all intertwined, and, "whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
This interconnectedness is seen in labels and imprints of the products we use and the clothes we wear. It is reflected in the vehicles we drive and cost of gas we use to fuel them. National conflict in one nation forces waves of refugees to another. The loss of crops in one country impacts the price one pays in another. The negligence of one nation's concern for greenhouse emissions for decades results in storms, excess flooding, and drought in another. And all of humanity feels the impact of a broken earth.
Consider an authentic representation of the nativity scene often on display this time of the year. The imagery is worthy of contemplation. A couple is living under the double burden of having no place to stay in a foreign city and the public stigma of being pregnant while unmarried. Several dirty, sweaty shepherd ranchers who are in much need of bathing. Three non-Christian, non-Jewish, astronomers from a foreign land with undescribed spiritual practices (who would have actually not been present at the birth). A newborn baby has been wrapped in rags and placed in a feeding trough to sleep. And all characters assembled in the most unsuitable place ever to imagine birthing a child- a cave amidst animals and their droppings - because there was no room at the inn. Yet it is in this moment that humanity catches a glimpse of true peace: young and old, clean and dirty, poor and stable, familiar faith and unfamiliar faith, all focusing on a miracle.
Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart
As the song concludes, maybe the dream will not happen in our lifetimes, but there is still hope for that peace on earth, someday at Christmastime.