Sometimes a song comes along that may not, at first glance feel as if it is a Christmas song. Such was the case when I first listened to Steve Earle’s poignant composition, Jerusalem. I realized that it speaks perfectly to many individuals who – looking beyond the tinsel and lights – are hoping that the Christmas message of peace and love will heal hearts and lives.
At this time of year, peace can feel very far away. Poor health. family strife, community conflicts and world unrest tempt us to lose hope for any resolution of our problems.
Earle, an American alternative country singer, knows all about hope – its loss and its restoration. He burst onto the music scene in the 1980s, but quickly flamed out amid a struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Yet, he found his way out of these problems, continued his career, and wrote this powerful song about hope for a city locked in centuries of strife. One verse, which alludes to writings by the prophet Isaiah, reads:
“But I believe there’ll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem.”
Before performing this song at a concert in Australia, Earle shared some of the comments he heard while writing it. Many people discouraged him, saying: “You are writing about a lost cause – a hopeless case.” He replied, “I cannot afford to believe that a lost cause or hopeless case even exists – because, there was a time when I was considered to be that by almost everyone – including myself.”
Earle‘s song about the country where Jesus taught and healed 2000+ years ago gives us a chance to reconsider how we think about peace, hope and despair. Back then, like today, that area was full of strife and a sense of hopelessness. Yet, many people were hoping for a saviour, someone who would lead them out of oppression and misery, and into peace.
For those seeking deliverance and security through some political path, led by a warrior king, Jesus must have been a disappointment, since he didn’t offer that kind of solution. Instead, his teachings and works offered people, then and now, a peace that comes from the realization that every one of us has an unbreakable connection to a God who is unwavering Love.
Once we glimpse this, we can expect its power to heal any challenging situation in human experience.
Changing the very basis for our hope is the key. Human hope, rooted in a belief that something or someone – a warrior king, for example – will magically appear and everything will be fixed, is vague, fragile, and liable to be lost at any moment. Divine hope, founded on a deep spiritual conviction of our unity with God, is unwavering and powerful.
Steve Earle’s firm stand to never give up hope has brought him through much and is a lesson for us all.
To divine Love there are no hopeless cases or causes.
May you have a peaceful Christmas, full of hope