Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

“But in this season it is well to reassert that the hope of mankind rests in faith. As man thinketh, so he is. Nothing much happens unless you believe in it, and believing there is hope for the world is a way to move toward it.” (Gladys Taber)

“Child with a Dove” by Pablo Picasso (1901)

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men.

Like festive greenery, silver bells, or candy canes, these words have come to define the holiday season. We sing them in carols, scribble them in Christmas cards, read them aloud in church.

In this season of love, joy and miracles, PEACE — what we as human beings claim to cherish most — feels ever more elusive.

Each day, as we hear of yet another natural disaster, mass shooting, racially motivated atrocity, or act of domestic violence, our hearts break a little more, and we question everything we do and believe in. What makes sense in a world that seems to be falling apart, when those who lack a moral compass can wield such power? How can some be led so far beyond the limits of human decency?

Moreover, how can we steady our faith and resolve, hold onto hope in the face of adversity and uncertainty?

In her powerful, inspiriting poem “Amazing Peace,” Maya Angelou speaks of Christmas as “the halting of hate time.” Though she wrote the poem especially for the White House Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony back in 2005, her words are even more relevant today. How can we look “beyond complexion and see community”?

This year, and in all the years to come, let us wholeheartedly embrace the Peace of Christmas — each to each, with kindness, comfort, and compassion, lighting the way for others with the golden rule as our guiding principle. A simple tenet, yet profound and far reaching because we have the power to practice it every single day.  Even when faced with the incomprehensible, we must continue to believe in the goodness of humanity. If we stand together, love, the strongest emotion a human being is capable of experiencing, will prevail.

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(quote by Jimi Hendrix)

AMAZING PEACE:  A Christmas Poem
by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

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photo collage by Art Wolfe

HOPE IS BORN AGAIN IN THE FACES OF CHILDREN

How do children envision peace — a world without nuclear weapons, wars, or fear? Here are some of my favorite entries from the 2012 United Nations Art for Peace Contest. We see fresh hope for the future in the creativity, imagination and passion of these young artists. We have much to learn from them, and we must work harder to give them the kind of world they wish for and deserve.

“Feeding Peace” by Joya (age 17), El Salvador
“Wings of Peace” by Alice (age 15), USA
“Green and Peace” by Jiahong (age 17), China
“A Change to Stand” by Abegail (age 15), Philippines
“Peace Leads to Happiness” by Alistair (age 14), Bahrain
“The Peace of Heart” by Anna Maria (age 15), Germany
“Peace in Every Part of the World” by Monica (age 14), Philippines
“The peace is beautiful as if a flower which grows and provides beauty and fragrance” by Claudia (age 12), Indonesia
“My Dream World” by Lakeisha (age 5), Indonesia
“Cut Nuclear Weapons and Make Peace Dove” by Benjamin (age 8) USA
“Heart Flowers” by Grace (age 6), New Jersey USA
“Peace Explosion” by Matthew (age 16), Barbados
“Defense Cooperation” by Sutatip (age 16), Thailand. Third Place, ages 13-17.
“Making Peace” by Saumya (age 16), India
“Peace for Our Future Generation” by Mok Yan (age 12), Malaysia. First Place, ages 9-12.
“If There Were a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” by Galuh (age 8), Indonesia. FIrst Place, ages 5-8.
“Tree House of Peace” by Sirigorn (age 8), Thailand
“Someday” by Haruka (age 17), Cherry Hill, NJ, USA. First Place, ages 13-17.

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Here is a video of Maya Angelou reading her poem in Washington, D.C.:

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poetry fridayThe lovely and talented Tara Smith is hosting the Roundup at A Teaching Life. Check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere today and have a good weekend. Be kind, keep the faith, and never lose hope. Peace be with you always.

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

41 thoughts on “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

  1. Amazing art, Jama! It must have been very difficult for them to choose the winners.
    “On this platform of peace, we can create a language
    To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.” I hope so!

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  2. I always feel stretched when a poem prompts me to look up a word, Jama.
    Appreciations –
    for sharing these messages from Maya Angelou +
    from the hugely creative children artists of the UN contest in 2012 +
    from you.
    Despite everything I am very hopeful because I see children like those represented here, so often.

    ps i smiled that 2 of the young artists were from my child-days state – n.j.

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  3. “Peace, My Soul.” Unless we find it in ourselves, I’m afraid we won’t find it any where. I’ve been trying really hard this week not to be snarky. I’ve failed miserably. However, I’ll try again next week. And that’s all we can ask of anyone–to try. Then to try even harder. Have a great holiday, Jama.

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    1. You’re so right, Diane. Inner peace is what we should all aspire to — something Maya said in her interview with Katie Couric the year she wrote the poem.

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  4. Even though Maya Angelou’s poem is exactly the sort of poem I tend to veer away from, I also think it sounds EXACTLY like her (which is a good thing) and the message is lovely. Also, I REALLY like the Unicef peace artwork! Such talented kids around the world….

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  5. Oh Jama, what beauty you brought to us today. The poem is lovely & I think I’ve read it every year since that first year, but I didn’t know about the Art for Peace work. How wonderful for us to see what children imagine. Thank you!

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    1. Reading the poem each year is a very good practice, Linda! We need to renew our commitment to promoting peace and kindness whenever and wherever we can.

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  6. Thank you for this post, Jama. It’s just what we all needed in these times when peace seems impossible. I love these lines:

    “On this platform of peace, we can create a language
    To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.”

    I think that’s the key – learning to speak a new language that reflects our commonality instead of our differences.

    Isn’t the collage of children’s faces beautiful? Thanks for sharing the children’s art, too.

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    1. You’re so right, Joyce. A new language — anything is better than the language of hate, intolerance, and violence that too many subscribe to.

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  7. I am hearing that pleading for peace in so many places these days. Maya Angelou speaks for all of us. I also love the children’s art – what amazing pieces, from children of all ages and from all over the world.

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  8. Every aspect of this post resonates in my heart, Jama. Maya Angelou’s poem is spot on for today’s world just as it was 10 years ago. The art you’ve shared is amazing – most impressed with Lakeisha’s “Dream World”. Wow. I’m going to hold Taber’s words in my heart today:
    “believing there is hope for the world is a way to move toward it”.
    Happy Holidays, Jama! =)

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  9. I highlighted this line “Hope is born again in the faces of children” as I read the poem…and then, there they were! And there was their art! I noticed the hands reaching out in so many of the pieces of art. Beautiful.

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  10. Jama,
    Between shootings and racism and illness and addiction this has been such a dark, dark, dark season. Just Tuesday, I herded the middle schoolers in off of the playground at lunch recess because a policeman had been shot less than a mile from my school. I cried when I read your post. Love the Angelou poem and also the beautiful, beautiful art. Thank you!

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    1. Sorry to hear that, Carol — what a frightening day for everyone at your school! It’s so difficult to keep your wits about you when such darkness looms and surrounds and colors everything else. We face new challenges since Angelou wrote her poem ten years ago but we must never lose hope. All the best to you this holiday season.

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