In just a few days, Christmas will arrive. Churches will be full, carols will be sung, and prayers will be shared. The sentiment of “peace on earth and goodwill towards all” will swell in hearts and minds, and peace will be known by many. However, not all will know peace this Christmas.
From war-ravaged Aleppo to violence-ridden streets here in the United States; from people who fear for their safety because of their race, religion, gender, or sexuality to people who fear for the planet’s well-being because of climate change; from individuals battling the scourge of addiction to individuals struggling with loneliness and depression, peace is not always a given, even at Christmas time.
The opposite of peace, both social and personal, is disharmony. That is easy to understand. What can be more challenging is recognizing how layers of disconnection lead to layers of disharmony. While we are more connected than ever in this digital age, in many ways we are as disconnected as ever. A determination to beat out, shout over, or simply ignore those people whose life experiences are different from our own seems to be increasingly commonplace. Building walls of division seems to increasingly overshadow any need or desire to build relationships, understanding, or connection with people who do not fit into our well-informed but echo-chamber-like comfort zones, digital or otherwise.
Christmas, of course, celebrates a very unique connection between God and humanity, and regardless of how one might understand the Sacred or pray for peace in this world, Christmas is always a good time to consider what relationships—what connections—in our own lives could use a little repairing. A celebration of ultimate understanding, compassion, empathy, and reconciliation, Christmas invites all of us to share real gifts of understanding, compassion, empathy, and reconciliation with others in our own lives.
Talk to the person whom you are finding it hard to get along with or understand. Read about the world from a different but reliable perspective. Support someone who needs support. Sit with someone who needs someone to sit with them. Give voice to those who have no voice. Share small connections of peace that might be spread onward in ways you might not ever see but will still somehow be touched by.
And if you are in church on Christmas Eve, connecting with others and singing “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright,” let the peace and calmness of that shared moment fill you. Carry that peace and calmness with you to share with others, whoever they might be. Then, be ready to see the world differently as you share a little of the harmony that comes with the birth of understanding, compassion, empathy, and reconciliation in our everyday lives.