e are almost there. It will soon be time for the hush of Christmas to fall over us, and at last we can put down all of our busyness. All the frantic hustle a bustle of last-minute shopping will cease, and we can quieten ourselves down with the people we love and breathe in the silence of the night before Christmas. Letters have been sent up the lum to be lifted by the breeze atop the chimney and blown off to Father Christmas, nibbles have been put out for his arrival, and our stockings are all hanging in a row. You have my sympathies if you will be spending the night trying hard not to curse as you assemble children’s toys following the provided Swedish instruction booklet.
Over this past year I have been spending a great deal of time reading and thinking about the horror of war; in Belgium at the Ypres Salient through the summer, and from the autumn until now in Trinity College studying conflict. None of this makes for pleasant reading, and certainly not on Christmas Eve, but it has helped me to see the importance of peace – and what is more seasonal than peace?
We can’t believe everything we read in books, and we certainly can’t accept everything every author says about the reality of things. All of us reflect on the new things we learn, and we balance these things on the other truths and opinions we have discovered in the world around us. One such idea I learned this year, and one which I refuse to accept, is that peace is a social construction – that is to say that peace is what powerful people say it is until they say it is something else. This nugget of wisdom has hung on me now for months. Peace is infinitely more than the absence of violence or political settlements, and no one I think knows this better than people who have waged war and suffered its effects.
One-hundred-and-one years ago tonight at Verdun in France, in disobedience of their orders, the soldiers in the trenches silenced their guns. For a few hours there was peace, as enemies greeted one another, exchanged gifts, and sang songs together. It was not a legal or a politically or socially agreed peace, but the breakthrough into the world of the real of the deepest hunger of all living things – the perfection of peace. Today and tonight it is this peace we wish one another, and hope to share together; a peace that surpasses mere silence and reaches out in peace to bring peace to others. This Peace I wish you tonight, on this your last sleep before Santa comes. Goodnight and God bless.