"War is over," chants a children's choir on the recording of a classic John Lennon Christmas song, "if you want it."
On the eve of Christmas 2017, we are drawn to that if.
We are not overtly in a time of war, per se, but conflict surely defines our era. Much has been made of the caustic divisions in our national conversation, the incivility online, the condescension on left and right each toward the other, the rush to our cultural and political silos, where we reinforce our prejudices with like-minded fellows and share in the condemnation of all who are not us.
In a season devoted to peace, love and brotherhood, it is only natural to decry such a climate and to revel in the comfort of a day devoted to the opposite, to love, to harmony, to fellowship. And it seems just as natural to mourn that for too many of us, it will be merely a single day, if we can manage that. For too many of us, it may seem to require all our powers of restraint to make it through the family's holiday dinner. Such are the times in which we live.
But, let's remember, they are nothing new. The history of humankind is a story of constant division, animosity, war and struggle. But at this time, we celebrate the notion that that does not have to be, that we can be better people.
If we want it.
We think back only a couple of weeks, to Naperville and a Dec. 10 Community Unity Walk. The purpose of the march sponsored by numerous local faith and civic groups, said one of its organizers, was to defy an atmosphere of conflict and promote inclusion, acceptance and understanding.
What an important message for the most sacred time of the year. And one of the most important things about it is that, virtually by definition, it is not something that can be imposed on us from outside; it is something we develop from within ourselves, each of us individually.
In a spiritual sense, much of the joy of this season comes from appreciation for the spiritual grace that clears the way for us to conceive of and work toward a world of universal peace and harmony.
In a practical sense, some of this joy also comes from the simple recognition that, through that grace, we can be more than we are. We don't have to foment turmoil, anger and division. We can -- by following an example set for us 2,000 years ago -- foster respect, compassion and unity.
And so, as John Lennon sang, "Happy Christmas." Enjoy the merry mayhem of the holiday. Delight in the bosom of faith, friends and family.
And reflect on the promise of peace and harmony that is not restricted to this one day of the year but can put conflict behind us for all time.
If we want it.