Tracy Taris: Putting Peace Into Practice

One of my favorite Christmas carols didn’t start out as a Christian song. “Do You Hear What I Hear” was written by a husband-andwife duo who wrote the song during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a plea for peace.

When we hear the song today, we associate it with imagery the writers never intended—that of the Savior’s birth. Leave it to God to take something and repurpose it for an even greater message.

The writers were Noël Regney, a Catholic who had left the church, and his wife, Gloria Shayne, who was Jewish. The inspiration for the lyrics came to Regney in 1962 during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was in a blue mood as he walked through the streets of New York City, thinking about impending war.

As he was absorbed in thoughts about the atrocities of war, he witnessed two babies in their strollers facing each other. They smiled at each other, and for some reason a sense of warmth overtook him. It was at this very moment that the words to this legendary song came to mind. He later asked his wife to compose the music to go with his lyrics.

”Do You Hear What I Hear” begins with the night wind speaking to a little lamb, (the lamb was a symbol of peace), asking him if he sees a star “way up in the sky … dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite.” The star was supposed to be representative of a bomb, not the Christmas star.

Later in the lyrics, the child “shivering in the cold” did not represent the baby Jesus, but the children Regney saw on his New York stroll and how war would affect them. The gold represented money that would be needed to recover from the loss war would surely bring. The central message of the song is to “pray for peace.”

I find it fascinating that a song about war became a song about the Prince of Peace. We are called to peace due to the nature of God himself. God commands us not to fear, no matter what He calls us to. Great pressure comes with the role of leadership. God knows this, but He calls us anyway.

The Book of Joshua begins with God calling Joshua to ministry, to take the place of Moses who had just died (Joshua 1:1-9). In His call, God gave Joshua three directives:

1. Go and take the land He’d given them (verse 2).

He promised He’d be with them and that He would not leave or forsake them. God said this because this wasn’t the first time Joshua and the people had been told to go into Canaan. Forty years prior (Numbers 13), when Moses was alive, Moses had sent in 12 spies to investigate the land. All but two, Joshua and Caleb, responded in fear to what they saw and came back with a report that resulted in disobedience to God. What was the consequence of shrinking back in the midst of stress? Never entering the land.

2. Be strong, courageous, and not afraid (verse 6).

The King James Version uses the word “dismayed,” which in Hebrew means cracking or breaking under pressure or stress. Because the parents of the children of Israel allowed fear and anxiety to stop them from taking what God had for them, God warned Joshua and Caleb to not allow fear of the unfamiliar steal their peace.

3. Meditate on the Word of God (verse 7).

God told Joshua to always think about and obey the instructions He’d given them through Moses. He was letting them know that they didn’t have to repeat history by letting fear lead to disobedience. They had His Word as a guide and they had a choice to listen to it.

God doesn’t tell us to not fear because there is nothing to fear. Often there is a legitimate reason to fear as we experience life through our human minds. Yet, He wants us to know that whatever He asks of us, He will be right there to see us through.

We serve a God who is both omniscient and compassionate.

He knew Joshua would have his work cut out for him in leading the people of Israel. He knew the possibility of the Israelites giving into fear and forfeiting what was promised— again.

The Bible sees not believing God as equivalent to having contempt for Him (see Numbers 14:11). When we are called to serve others, we ultimately serve God. The task may seem daunting but we can choose peace in our response.

Keep the following in mind:

1. When God calls, He equips.

2. Believe Him when He says He will never leave you nor forsake you.

3. Experiencing stress is normal. Stress often manifests due to the mind’s realization that the tasks before you outweigh the resources you have. God knows this, so refer back to Numbers 1 and 2.

When we accept an assignment from God, He wants us to choose to have peace about it.

Galatians 5:22 shows that peace isn’t something we go after. It is something we already have. Since the Lord is Peace (Judges 6:24) and as His people we have peace (Psalm 29:11), we are already equipped. We just have to believe that His Spirit provides and then move in the direction of that belief through obedience.

Peace doesn’t mean there won’t be any challenges. Peace, which is translated from shalom in Hebrew, means wholeness, completeness, and being unbroken in our minds and emotions.

Obeying God not only brings blessing, it also brings healing and wholeness. When God tells us “No” or “Go,” it is always for our good. It is not from a place of withholding nor a place of putting a strain on us.

So, think about it. Do you hear what I hear? Hear, believe, and know this:

“The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

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