"Amazing Peace" Themes
by Maya Angelou

Start Your Free Trial

Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Download "Amazing Peace" Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The title of the poem immediately calls to mind the hymn “Amazing Grace,” in which the speaker comes through “many dangers, toils, and snares,” and the earth ultimately dissolves like snow. Yet the hymn proclaims that God offers a life of “joy and peace” after trial and tribulation, a theme echoed in Angelou’s “Amazing Peace.”

Like prophecies in the Bible, Angelou’s poem is an oracular revisioning of the future conceived of as a return to creation out of a formless void, as in Genesis 1 and 2. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and amid growing fears of global warming, the first two stanzas of the poem strip Everytown, USA, as bare as winter and forecast coming disasters in what appears to be the apocalypse. The Job-like speaker questions God: “Are you there? Are you there, really?” God is pressed to remember his covenant, which could refer either to the promise he made to Noah that he would never destroy the earth with water—disqualifying twenty-first century hurricanes and avalanches—or to the covenant made with Abraham that countless descendants would inherit a promised land.

The poem describes a present-day Babel, partitioned according to religions, nations, and tribes, wherein communication is predominantly argument and accusation. Angelou, a Protestant, impartially addresses members of all major religions and sects: Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Jainists, and Confucians. These “believers and nonbelievers” alike have failed peace or simply have no alternative vision.

Into this purgatory, shifting between the negative forces of natural disaster, war, and hatred, “Christmas enters.” In a passing reference, the “Holy Instant” of Jesus’ birth is credited as being the universal source of trust, hope, and peace. Jesus alone is responsible for the “Glad Season,” a time of Yuletide friendship...

(The entire section is 439 words.)