i can't help but be sad and overwhelmed in the first few days of this new year. at lunch today we sat around the table sharing news we had all learned over the last week or so of being apart. most of the news was sad news. stories of separations and divorce, of drugs and violence and death. i came home and read accounts of the violence in gaza and was brought deeper into this sadness.

and today is the day that we celebrate the 3 kings bringing baby jesus gifts. at church this morning our deacon shared stories of this celebration in puerto rico where he's from - such anticipation of this day, when poor families like his feasted and became like children in the face of a beautiful story of a baby born in a stable. if the birth of jesus illuminates anything for me it is that we are called to be peacemakers. children are often peacemakers, refusing to let where someone is from or how much money they make or what language they speak affect how they are treated.

i found this article about christmas time and peace below that moved me. enjoy...


Holly Harman Fackler: Thinking about peace during this busy holiday season

By HOLLY HARMAN FACKLER • News Journal • December 28, 2008

The final week of the year is a ponderous one for me. The renewed hope and anticipation brought by Christmas spills right over into a fitful glance back at the year almost over and an optimistic setting of intentions for the year about to start.

While marking time Thursday, I pulled Maya Angelou's "Celebrations" from my shelf and found a poem that fit the season.

From "Amazing Peace," written for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Dec. 1, 2005, I read: "Hope is born again in the faces of children./ It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets./ Hope spreads around the earth, brightening all things,/ Even hate, which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

"In our joy, we think we hear a whisper ..."

That whisper, Angelou reveals a few lines later, is the word "peace." It starts out soft but builds until it overcomes the sounds of war.

Angelou wants to -- wants those of every religious leaning to -- keep the peace of Christmas around "So we may learn by your shimmering light/ How to look beyond complexion and see community." From this common ground of Christmas, setting aside hate, "we can create a language/ To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other."

Angelou's sentiments made me think again of southern Ohio's Peggy Gish, one of the "aged" who is carrying peace on her shoulders to the ordinary people of Iraq as part of Christian Peacemaker Teams International. During a May phone interview, I asked her -- as a grandmother who walks unarmed with "enemies" in a land of war, spreading hope, lighting up dark corridors -- what ordinary Americans could do on behalf of peace.

She had these ideas:

# Teach the kids: Integrate peacemaking with children's learning and activities.

# Reach out: Use interactions in organizations and meetings to model peacemaking skills.

# Learn more: Supplement reports by mainstream media with information from other media around the world for a clearer picture of what is going on.

# Speak out: Once you have clarity, tell what you know. "Write letters to the editor. That's democracy in action."

# Make friends: Take part or initiate efforts to bring people of different backgrounds together to develop friendships and diffuse prejudices.

# Reduce your oil dependence: "It (peace, social justice and natural resource use) all goes together. We want to try to live it out as much as we can."

# Find other people: Peacemaking is hard work and needs the support of a loving community around it. Hook up with local peace groups or with groups and resources sponsored by the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Society of Friends/Quakers, Church of the Brethren).

(see more on peggy and art)

Like Angelou, like Gish, like a colleague who told me that we're going to have to learn to be neighbors to make it through "this thing" -- I'm hoping that we'll all "make our way to higher ground" -- together.

On Wednesday, I put the check into the mailbox that would allow a son to spend his next semester studying abroad. Yesterday, I said goodbye, again, to another son and my daughter-in-law, who return Monday to the West Coast, where they follow their own path to peace and understanding. My youngest is still deciding where next year will find her, but it will be away.

On Friday, we gathered at last around the table for "my" Christmas dinner.

It didn't matter that it wasn't Christmas Day or that it was the third of four or fourth of five Christmas dinners my kids would have in the space of a few days. It didn't matter that the menus were roughly the same, or that one dish or another weren't quite up to a standard set in an earlier year, or that the tree had significantly fewer gifts under it.

What mattered was that we were -- however briefly -- safe and together to support each other's journeys in material ways and as cheerleaders.

I like the trappings of Christmas, the adornments of life. I like the extras. But when things go lean and spare, it's easier to see the bones that hold it all together. The bones must get their due now. When they do, they'll rise again.

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