“Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Sleep in Heavenly Peace”
There is a list of 9 Christmas movies that I schedule myself to watch every year, and towards the top of that list lies one of the greatest explorations of human fear, loneliness, and “shalom” that the world has ever seen. I am referring of course to A Charlie Brown Christmas- Shultz’s 1965 masterpiece. You may think that praise is a bit lofty, but honestly, I don’t know that there’s a better way to explore today’s story.
As the host of Heaven arrives in the midst of the Shepherds, we are told that they announce the coming of “Peace (Eirene) on Earth”. That Greek word is the translation of the old Hebrew word, “Shalom”. While in English we render both of these words as “Peace”, this misses the richness of the original definition. Perhaps more rightly, the word ought to be rendered “wholeness”. The angels are not simply declaring an end to wartime, but rather they are proclaiming a restoration of the original state of completeness and goodness that comes when human relationships with God and others are restored- when that which was missing is found.
Consider Charlie Brown. The special opens up with Charlie Brown in a state of depression. He says that he knows he should be happy, but he just isn’t. Despite no real threats, he finds himself afraid (with the help of Lucy he self-diagnoses himself with “the fear of everything”) and lonely. As he goes about he finds characters who are nursing the same desires with Christmas presents, extravagant Christmas productions, decoration displays, and more. When he finally calls for someone to tell him what Christmas is all about, Linus famously quotes Luke 2:8-14. In the midst of doing so, he drops his security blanket at the imperative “fear not”, and closes with the declaration of peace (Shalom) on Earth.
Charlie Brown walks away happy. In the angel’s announcement of Shalom, we take comfort not only in the idea that Jesus will end war, but that he acknowledges our deep incompleteness that we feel (even during the holidays), and intends to address it with the repairing of our divine and human relational brokenness. The special ends with the Peanuts gang singing together around the tree- a wonderful little look at what that real “wholeness” looks like.
-Have you ever been hurt, depressed, or felt incomplete during a time like a holiday season when it feels like you should be happy? Why do you think you still felt that way? How can Jesus’s “Shalom” address that hurt in ways that regular “peace” cannot?
(This video is a great explanation of “Shalom”)