The Way Of Peace

All that men learned from sacred scrolls
was broken faith and twisted souls—
the heritage of noble halls
was broken swords and blackened walls—
So Love invaded guile and war,
misery and unease;
into our darkness came a star,
into our anger, peace.
But men forget that heavenly grace
makes every stall a princely place,
and trust to reap from iron force
joy, mercy, or remorse;
and so, good Christians, let us pray
in thought and work and hymn:
“Lord, make each morn a Christmas day,
each heart a Bethlehem.”

 William R. Mitchell

It's Christmas time, the time of celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Oh – yeah, except the merchants want to make it a "gift-giving" celebration to sell more stuff and many won't even say "Merry Christmas" anymore for fear of possibly offending some potential customer. Huh? Why should someone be offended by that? Are they so caught up in their own anti-religious, self-serving attitudes that they can't stand for someone else to have religious sentiment? It's typical these days, I suppose…

Oh – yeah, except there are those Christians who say it is a "pagan holiday" and that Jesus wasn't born in December. Well, maybe he was, and maybe he wasn't, 'cuz the Gospel stories don't really say when it was. Oh sure, we can "infer" that maybe it was earlier in the year because shepherds don't usually spend the night out in the field with the sheep in the middle of winter. (Well, maybe it was just a warm December like we are having in Dallas this week?) OK, but, the gospels still don't say WHEN it was.

So, along the way Christians came up with some dates to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And why they chose some dates and not others is partly tradition, partly convenience, and partly a mystery. In the end, though, I just have to come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter all that much. I like the attitude in William Mitchell's poem quoted above: make each morn a Christmas day…

But since speculation seems to be the rule regarding the origin of Christmas, I will throw out my own little bit of inference for your consideration:

Back in the day, before all our modern technology and convenience, the winter was a time of staying inside, trying to keep warm, doing things that didn't require a lot of outside work and activities. Men looked out on a world that had the appearance of dying. The leaves were gone from the trees, the grass was brown and withered, snow and ice would come and cover everything from time to time. And the sun was receding, each day a little shorter than the previous. Yet, in the midst of all that, when you look across the winter landscape you see little spots of green. High among the dead branches of the oak there would be these little sprigs of green – mistletoe. And some trees weren't dry and brown – evergreens. These things make a nice metaphor. In the midst of the "dying" land there was a sign that life would return in the spring. That greenery then becomes something symbolic and the basis of wintertime celebrations. It is a sign of hope. Likewise, the return of the sun at winter solstice is an indication that the world is not coming to an end, but will turn and begin anew.

So, imagine a Christian teacher wanting to get across the message of hope in the Gospel story. All the signs of hope, of life returning, can be used as a metaphor of God's grace to us through the birth of Jesus. His birth is our hope. God's love "invades" the world through the birth of Jesus and brings to us a hope of our own rebirth.

Tribute of the Advent is from a collection of Christmas poems by William R. Mitchell, each beautifully illustrated by William Brown. It is available from and



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