At the beginning of Advent, a clergy colleague said, “Easter and resurrection? Oh, anybody can believe in that. Believing in ‘Peace on earth, good will to all?’ That’s hard work!”
Peace on earth, good will to all….It is getting harder to believe in, isn’t it? On the whole, in the western world–perhaps especially in the United States–we have been insulated from random violent attacks. This year, our insulation is thinning. San Bernardino, Charleston. Colorado. Chattanooga. Add to those, attacks in Paris, Nigeria, and ongoing conflicts in Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan… And peace on earth feels about as elusive as it ever has.
I’ve recently begun reacquainting myself with science fiction. When I was a child, I loved science fiction. I loved the thought of space travel, of transporters and transponders like they had on Star Trek. I remember one book I read had a picture of a little boy talking to someone through a small TV sitting on his desk. Pure fantasy, it seemed! With new devices coming out all the time, I’ve decided that techies are really Trekkies–they’re trying to make everything we saw on Star Trek a reality. 🙂 (With traffic these days, I’m ready for that transporter technology….like, NOW!)
In addition to what seemed at the time far-fetched techie gadgets, both Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation dealt with social issues. In the midst of all the transporting and warp-speeding, the concern to treat every being humanely was central to both shows. Gene Roddenberry and his successors invited us to imagine a more hopeful, more humane future. They invited us to see a better, more evolved human race.
In contrast, other science fiction is more cautionary. Works in this vein show us what the world will look like if we fail to evolve ethically and spiritually. In the movie Children of Men, the time is 2027. The story begins with the death of the youngest person on the planet, a 25 year old man killed in a bar brawl. Joseph Ricardo was the last child born before the world was seized by infertility.
What does a world without children look like? Pollution has turned the sky permanently gray. Schools and playgrounds are abandoned. One by one, cities are dying. The people who are left constantly fight each other. Refugees are caged. Compassion is a rare commodity.
In this violent, infertile world, a young woman becomes pregnant. Fearing for her safety, a group of resistance fighters protects the young refugee to ensure a safe delivery for her baby.
Shortly after the baby’s birth, mother, child, and a friend find themselves in an apartment building under siege by fighting actions. Desperate to keep the baby safe amidst the gunfire, the mom and friend try to hide the child.
But the baby cries. The strangest thing happens when those around the child hear it. They drop their guns. A hushed murmur begins, “A baby! A baby!” The young woman—clutching the baby to her breast–and her friend, slowly walk through the crowd, down the steps, and outside. As they walk, guns are lowered; a hush descends; everyone stares in wonder.
As the trio makes its way down the road, a wave of resuming gunfire rushes in behind them.
Believing in “peace on earth”…It does take a lot of work, doesn’t it? So maybe we too should look at the baby in our midst, the one we’ve come here tonight to celebrate, a baby also born into a chaotic, violent world…. If we long for peace, good will to all, perhaps we too need to turn our attention to the baby…then drop our weapons—drop our guard–and allow ourselves to be overcome with wonder in the presence of the baby.
Perhaps then we’ll be able to believe in peace on earth. Perhaps then we’ll be able to create it. I can almost hear God saying—with a suave British accent—“Make it so, Number One. Engage.”