Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For December 19 Weekender, 2015
David W. Hegg
It’s Christmastime, and even those with no religious connection to the celebration of Jesus’ birth would admit the season brings out certain joys in our society. You don’t have to be a Christ-follower to enjoy the lights along our streets, or the many charitable opportunities that offer the chance to live beyond ourselves and help others find a smile.
Perhaps there is a common denominator, a shared value lying deep in each human heart that finds in Christmas an avenue for joyous expression and a greater than usual outpouring of compassion. And if I had to nominate something it would be the innate desire we all have for peace.
The lore of Christmas has long been flavored with the idea of peace. The biblical Old Testament people looked forward to the coming of One promised as the prince of peace, and today many seasonal songs cry out for peace on earth, as the angelic choir promised to the shepherds of Bethlehem. But, haven’t you noticed our world has become increasingly violent, and now that violence is getting closer and closer to home?
I would offer this reason, though it may not come as a surprise. The reason we see less and less peace around us is simply because we’ve lost the true meaning of the word.
Peace is more than a greeting and symbol left over from the free-love era. It is also more than being left “in peace.” And it is certainly much more than the cessation of aggression between warring factions. Simply put, peace is not only the absence of something. It is first and foremost the possession of something. And that something is a personal contentedness, arising from sterling character, which results in the pursuit of what is right, good, and helpful for self and society.
Peace starts in you and in me. It starts with a personal set of courageous values that form an ethical worldview and fuel personal contentment, even in the midst of chaos. Peace is always personal before it is societal. And where you find a society of people with no ethical moorings, no commitment to anything beyond personal comfort and wellbeing, you are sure to find a nation unable to fill that “peace-shaped” void in their souls. Where personal peace is replaced by serial discontent, chaos becomes the new normal.
So where do we begin? What is the starting place of real inner peace in the soul? For me it starts with asking the big ethical questions of life. Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
Any sincere attempt to answer these questions must wrestle with the ethical value of believing in the existence of God, and his role in our lives. Christmas offers us all a time to re-examine the role of biblical faith in understanding the idea that Jesus came to earth – God in the flesh – so that we might have peace with God. For, until we’re at peace with our maker, we’ll find peace on earth beyond our grasp.
And, yet, it is the wonder of Christmas that reminds us peace on earth is not only our longing, but God’s goal as well. He has sent the Prince of Peace through whom we can be at peace not only with him, but also one day with all those whose search for real peace has been met with his grace.
From my heart to yours … Merry Christmas!