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Have you heard about the Random Acts of Culture that's sweeping the nation?
In the men's department of a North Carolina department store, as a young man posing as a clerk helped a woman shopper, he suddenly started singing an operatic aria.
The woman was stunned as nearby shoppers captured it on video with their cell phones and posted it on You Tube.
The most widely reported instance took place at Macy's in Philadelphia when 650 choral singers burst out singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah." Many of the surprised shoppers started singing, too.
"The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ."
In each instance, the element of surprise caused shock - and awe.
We know all about shock and awe. Think Dec. 7, 1941. Sept. 11, 2001.
Wars often begin with a surprise attack. Sometimes they end with one, too - Hiroshima. Nagasaki.
Recently, I read that a few years back the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and some historians had determined that since 3600 B.C., the world has only known less than 300 years of peace.
At the time of their finding, there had been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people were killed. In 2010, the numbers are probably much higher.
We are a world continually at war. We live in a world where war and unrest and unpeace is the norm. Peace is the oddity.
Two thousand or so years ago, God began a shock and awe campaign with humanity, not with a Random Act of Culture, but a Deliberate Act of Peace.
I once heard a preacher say that God "waged peace" on us when he sent his son to earth. At Christ's birth, the angels appeared to terrified shepherds saying, "Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).
If the shepherds had been in Macy's, maybe the angels would have sang, "Hallelujah! For the Lord Omnipotent reigneth."
Nonetheless, they appeared suddenly with the message that God has declared he was waging peace on humankind.
"If God has waged peace on us, then that presupposes a war," I remember the preacher saying.
The scriptures confirm that. We are born at war with God and with each other and even with ourselves.
Yet, we long for peace.
Since we cannot provide that peace ourselves, no matter how hard we may try, God has provided it for us.
In the middle of the chaos of our war with him, God came as a helpless baby, as the greatest weapon of mass destruction against the greatest cosmic war in history. He came to destroy our unpeace and to wage his peace upon us.
Nevertheless, ever since he came some 2,010 years ago, peace isn't the prevailing characteristic of our world.
During the American Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to the carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." He wrote: "I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play. And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men."
He also wrote: "In despair I bowed my head. 'There is no peace on earth,' I said. 'For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."
So, who or what is right, the scriptures that declare God has waged peace or Longfellow's song that war rages?
Well, both are correct. For those "on whom his favor rests," God gives peace with himself and the ability and the power to have peace with our fellow humans and with ourselves.
It's both now and not yet. We won't know a final, once and for all, eternal peace until Jesus returns and restores everything we have destroyed with our wars.
Longfellow knew this when he wrote the last stanza to his song: "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to me."
Merry Christmas. May the everlasting peace of God be yours.