– John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon had a complicated heart. Some who knew him said he could be cruel and cold—to his ex-wife, to Yoko Ono, to his children, to his friends. Yet others, notably the other Beatles—the men who knew him longest and best—said that John had the biggest, kindest heart. I think this complicatedness is because Lennon’s story is one marked by woundedness. His mother died when he was a child, father ran away to sea, best friend died young, first marriage failed, fame became stifling, trusted manager died mid-career and John’s relationship with Yoko Ono, while fruitful and beautiful, was touched by periods of darkness. And while all this was happening in his universe, society was descending into seemingly endless war and chaos—because of the Vietnam War and because of the UK’s involvement in the Nigerian Civil War, what John called “the Nigeria-Biafra thing.” Like each of us, he struggled to transform this pain he was feeling, and sometimes transmitted it to others instead.
Deep in his heart, he longed for peace. I do believe that was his deepest desire. And I admire how he and his wife Yoko were willing to put their credibility, reputation, and resources on the line to promote peace—from their Montreal “bed-in” for peace (where they stayed in bed for a week while conducting interviews; John wrote and recorded “Give Peace a Chance” in this period) to his financial support of peace-related causes, to his songwriting for peace. His most lasting gesture in the cause for peace is perhaps his 1971 Christmas song “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” still played again and again at this time of year. The song was written for a different context, but takes on renewed and powerful meaning now. As our nation continues through a second decade of war in
Afghanistan and the Middle East, as our society descends into a cold (and sometimes hot) civil war, as we wage merciless, self-defeating war on our environment, peace seems more elusive than in Lennon’s day. Yet at this time of year the invitation is renewed to let peace be born into our hearts, to “let peace begin with me,” as St. Francis put it. Peace is God’s dream and hope for the world; war is our unnecessary thwarting of that dream. As I hold in my heart the birth of the Prince of Peace, I am moved to say yes to Lennon’s invitation, let war be over, within and without, I do want it.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I say yes to your dream for peace. Give us the courage and the deep desire to live into the invitation that “War is over.” We do want it so.