Thinking Anew

Gazing up at the stars, not down in the mud

Walking with dogs on a cold, dark, winter’s night can be far from joyless. While our best friends sniff excitedly through dark ditches the only thing to attract their owner’s attention is the canopy of stars and the adventure of human wonder. It is the optimism of being human; people gaze upwards as their companions fumble in the dark.

As far back as we know we have been fascinated by these tiny lights in the sky. They engage us at many different levels. For some they are portents and omens to predict future events. Others content themselves with calculating the ages and distances to far away stars. For some of us they are simply beautiful but beyond our reach. We try to catch them in the joy of language. Stars flicker everywhere in our love stories and poems. We even use them as a description for our role-models. Stars are inspiring.

Ordinary shepherds and learned magi alike took inspiration from the skies and made their way to Bethlehem. We explain them off as tales of omens and calculation and seldom think of the inspiration that set them on a journey. It was an early example of a peace march. The recurring wish of the star-gazer is a place of peace that lies maybe somewhere beyond the stars.

It is a place that our reason cannot understand, our words cannot describe and our desire cannot reject. Across the ages every culture has stared up and the stars and wondered. There must be something else out there in the vastness beyond our understanding. Part of us inexplicably believes that whatever is out there is good or at least better than what we have here. In most cases our desire for inspiration asks the one thing we feel entitled to expect here on Earth. We feel it but rarely seem to get it – peace!


Prince of Peace

Peace on earth to people of good will – the Prince of Peace welcomes everybody who seeks peace. Shepherd and king, rich and poor, local and stranger all seek the exact same thing. All humans seek peace. That is a generalisation that is close to being true. Breaking peace is always a decision. A roaring after something is a reaction , but roaring at something is a decision. Anger, nastiness, belligerence and unkindness are not natural to the human person. Left to our own devices we crave peace. The small symbols of universalism in the Christmas story speak to an audience far wider than just Christians. It is for all of those who have gazed beyond the senses and dreamed for something better, something that is both natural and common to us all.


The simple innocence of the Christmas story brings the lofty dream to Earth. A child is born and will preach joy, love and peace as things to experience here on Earth rather than notions whirling around in a place beyond our reach. Peace has taken flesh and lives among us.

We spend too much time rummaging in muck, finding faults and becoming upset. What relief from these would be more restful than communion with peace?

Our world needs peace and words of peace. Even people who think differently to us on other things share our desire for peace.

Peace is not a vague meditation about some abstract concept that might exist in a land far away. Peace is something we are all entitled to. At Christmas we celebrate that peace here among us. May that peace be with you and extended to everybody you encounter over the Christmas . . . and every day after Christmas too.