As I lay in bed this morning a persistent dream kept me sleeping on the edge of awake. I do not recall the dream specifically, but there was something keeping me in there, not wanting to move the blanket to bring me out on the other side. I was aware in the dream – new day, new year, and I felt enormous contentment. Then I heard it: a hymn seemingly sung by angels on high. It was John Lennon’s song “Happy Christmas/War Is Over,” and it was being sung by my children.
I pushed myself out of the reverie of sleep into wakefulness, motivated as a sleepwalker might be to move forward, undo latches and locks, and escape into the dark cold of night. As I came down the stairs I saw them sitting there (no wings or halos present to be sure), but their little voices had captured the nuances so well, the words rolling out and into the cosmos as they left their throats, no doubt delighting my mother in heaven (and Mr. Lennon, if he was not too busy listening to a million others singing the song elsewhere in the world).
My kids saw me and kept the verse going. My daughter had an impish smile, my son singing delightfully off key. They had heard the song many times leading up to Christmas, but their familiarity is with a newer version sung by Sarah McLachlan, a singer who is associated with having quite an angelic voice.
I sat on the chair until they finished singing, clapped my hands, and felt I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start a new year. My son is too young to understand the meaning of the song, but my ten-year-old daughter loves the song and what she perceives as the message: world peace is within our grasp, but we have to want it.
I think Lennon’s song has never been more timely than right now. I started thinking about the last American troops that have rolled into Kuwait, leaving behind years of war in Iraq. When the song first came out, the war in question was Vietnam (and there were certainly no signs of it abating then). Happily, Iraq is concluded, but Afghanistan and wars elsewhere still loom large, so the question is as poignant as ever: “war is over” but do we want it? Of course, in a child’s mind the answer is “How can we not?”
Yes, I want to think peace is possible, but after opening up this morning’s paper, I saw too many reasons to think it won’t happen. Number one reason is the threat by the Iranians to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, which in essence will stop oil shipments to many parts of the world. Of course, America has to rattle its saber and say that it cannot allow that to happen, so more fears of an escalation of hostilities rather than a move towards peace seem to be the reality.
I know many people think Lennon’s song is just a pipe dream, but I kind of hope every year that it is more of a peace pipe dream. If people all over the world can celebrate the birth of Jesus, if they can sing the song “Silent Night” and those lovely words “Sleep in heavenly peace,” then that would go for not just the Baby Jesus but every baby in the world. We adults surely must know that the most important thing we can do for our children is to make certain those words can become a reality.
So when my daughter said she loved Sarah McLachlan’s song, I stopped myself from going into the details about John Lennon. Besides, a great singer can make a song his own (think Nat King Cole and “The Christmas Song” or Frank Sinatra and “My Way”), and Sarah certainly makes that song hers when she sings it. There will be time for my daughter to know all about John Lennon, but for now I will let her sing that song and dream of peace and hope that sooner or later the adults of this world will get the message too.