Peace on Earth, Can It Be?

Peace on Earth, Can It Be?

Since we’re talking a lot about music this Advent season, let me mention one of my personal favorite songs of the season. A few years ago, someone mentioned in jest a duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing a version of Little Drummer Boy. Initially, I laughed because in what version of history would that ever happen? It turns out that it’s this version of history because it happened.

From denial, I progressed to bewilderment. I must have watched it three times before I could even believe it. Then came a period of research and inquiry. The story goes that Bing Crosby was doing a Christmas special and some producer got this new artist that the kids were crazy about to be a part of it. Crosby wanted to just sing Little Drummer Boy, but Bowie (ever the auteur) wanted to add something to it. So he wrote a few verses to sing while Bing is dropping the bass line in the background. It’s catchy as all get out.

The result is that every year now, I will spontaneously break out into a David Bowie impression, singing his lyrics from this song:

Peace on Earth, can it be?
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see
See the day of glory?
See the day, when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again.
Peace on Earth,
Can it be?

Part of it is just me enjoying impressions, and Bowie is easy. But I think the other part is that I genuinely respond to the lyrics. We talk of peace on earth, good will to humanity, but is that possible? In a world like ours where conflict is ever-present, ever-looming, can we dare to imagine peace? Dare we promote joy, hope, and love? Are these ideals too lofty for such a gritty world?

The conceit of Advent and the promise of Christmas is that we must dare. We must sing the songs of hope and peace, joy and love. What the song misses is that the Babe of Bethlehem, the Lord of hosts makes it all possible. Our purpose then, is to train others in the way of it. Help others to hear the song and to begin to sing along. Bowie’s lyrics say it this way:

Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care.
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can.