Corey-Jan’s “Peace on a Corner” moves me deeply. Legend has it that, when Nazi soldiers moved into Denmark to isolate and remove the Jews living there, King Christian—along with members of his court—had a yellow star stitched onto his sleeve before riding in an open carriage through the streets of Copenhagen. First a dozen, then hundreds and thousands of Christians joined in this powerful act of resistance. I often wonder how history might have been rewritten if all of my Christian forebears in Europe had done the same. I wonder, too, how different our world might be right now if American Christians and Jews had, en masse, sung “Salaam/Shalom” alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters in the wake of 9/11. For Christians, Christmas is about the birth and continual rebirth of God incarnate, calling us to a radically new way of being and a peace that surpasses all understanding. From that center we can act in godly ways. As another song puts it, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
How desolate it is to think of a world where understanding is lost, and how uplifting it is to see the beauty of compassion light up a whole community in a festival of unity. With too many incidents of bigotry, prejudice, hatred and ignorance being committed against minorities, including Muslims, I still do not wish to dwell on these issues, but rather on their remedies. Like Corey-Jan, I reflect upon the present energy around me and the meanings of the holidays, although as a Muslim I am not celebrating them. In the spirit of the holiday season, I wish that we would all replenish our hearts with the wonder of God’s miracles, His Mercy and His Compassion. One of the beautiful names of God mentioned in the Quran is as-Salaam, which means the source of safety, peace and perfection. May every human discover the peace in their hearts, and may that peace spread to all corners of the world.
I asked Corey-Jan to share her song and allow us to respond to it because I had heard her perform it in a variety of settings, and each time it really affected me. I grew up singing traditional Hanukkah songs in Hebrew and Yiddish, and performed the classic "I Have a Little Dreidel" numerous times in Religious School. I also sang Christmas songs in my public school's choir, never once wondering why they were the only holiday songs on the radio. I remain a fan of Christmas music and attend concerts at local churches every year. But this year I find myself humming "Peace on a Corner" as I prepare for Hanukkah; it is stuck in my head alongside "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells." Both the lyrics and the melody serve to boost my holiday spirit, reminding me that celebrating with friends is what increases the light and warmth on long winter nights. I pray that we are all enlightened by the music of the season, and that our spirits are raised as a new year of peace approaches.