I wrote a prayer in my journal that morning. Some quick words jotted down in the stillness of pre-dawn dark. “I want to encounter you this Christmas, Lord.” I light a candle and sip my coffee. “I don’t want to limit you to my preconceived notions of how Christmas needs to happen. I’m ready to let go of my expectations and simply rest in the anticipation of seeing you. No matter how you show up.”
I didn’t expect it to be in a room with 5,000 high school theater kids dancing and screaming along to loud music. I didn’t expect it to be in the middle of a dark auditorium with a bunch of kids who want so desperately to find the missing part of their souls. I didn’t expect it to be in a moment of heart wrenching sorrow over the sinking feeling of emptiness that pervaded that overpacked room. But there, in that darkness with all the theater kids looking for their souls to be filled, with all the unspoken twinges of brokenness, the inaudible cries to be set free from the need to impress, to fit in, to shock, to be noticed, the silent hopes for something more, there was Jesus. “This is why I came,” he quietly reminded me. “To bring good news to the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, to release the prisoners from darkness.”
There are holes everywhere right now. We’re all leaky vessels, our pastor says. And the more I look around the more I see it. The empty, broken, enslaved, anxious hearts, looking so high and so low for something that might fill them up. Work, success, money, possessions, friendships, romance, travel, vacations, family, politics. But no matter how we fill up those empty caverns in our hearts the holes underneath keep leaking. We aren’t whole.
Peace on earth seems like a mockery in the face of this shattered mess. And yet it is right here, in the very center of the chaos, that Christ enters. The Prince of Peace, he is called. And with his arrival there is good news and great joy. “Peace on Earth,” the angels sang. And not as some trite phrase to tack on the end of a song but as the very heart of their message. Christ has come. And at last, in the midst of all this empty dark, peace is suddenly an option.
We’re leaning over the railing of a bridge. Hundreds of fountains shooting up, light streaming across the water. People are cheering. Everyone crowds in to see better. Color and projected images spread across the mist. And at the climax of it all music begins streaming through the speakers around us. “Let there be peace on earth.” Something in my soul is ignited. Yes, it cries out as the water blazes higher into the sky and the lights flood our spots on that bridge. Yes! Let there be peace on earth. “And let it begin with me.”
And I know there is nothing I can do to make peace. I am incapable of manufacturing and contriving peace and wholeness. I can’t patch up the holes in my soul. I can’t clean up the mess this world, and my very own heart, is saturated in. But with the good news the angels were shouting from the heavens, with the offering of peace extended from heaven to earth, with all this light and beauty and glory around me, I long to join in on this peacemaking.
Our little City Market is packed to the brim this morning. Aisles are stuffed and baskets are overfilling. Our church congregation walks out from the sanctuary and to the grocery store to join in the peacemaking. Canned soup, spaghetti noodles, hot chocolate mix, peanut butter. A small contribution to filling the emptiness in our community.
I come into the kitchen and see my husband at the sink. Last night’s crusty dishes, this morning’s cereal bowls, my cold cup of coffee with a ring staining the bottom of my mug. They are being scrubbed clean under the sudsy hot water. The mess of dishes scattered is ordered and put back together.
I plug the lights in as soon as the night begins. A candle is lit. Tiny lights sparkle over our woodsy tree. Light in the darkness. All these small acts, almost unseen but never unnoticed. Right here in the unexpected places and in the small details of this crazy life. We are joining God in peacemaking. Peace in the chaos.
Let there be peace on earth. The peace of Christ. The kind of peace that is different than we expect, the kind that transcends what we understand. And let us all be agents of this peace this Christmas season and into January and until the day Jesus returns and the fullness of peace comes at last.
A few additional resources for you on this second Sunday in Advent, this Peace Sunday:
Light the Candles. Second Sunday: Peace by Ann Voskamp “We could do more than sing about peace on earth this Christmas. We could live peace on earth this Christmas.”
Peace :: Second Sunday in Advent by Sarah Bessey “I believe Advent reminds me that peace was announced then and peace was promised and that peace is our birthright and our endgame and our wholeness at last. I believe in singing a song of peace, declaring that God is not dead nor does God sleep, in the midst of a thunderstorms.”
Where Peace Begins (from the archives) “Christmas is about the coming of Christ – the Prince of Peace. It is about this Prince who, by His gruesome death, made it possibly for His subjects to actually experience complete peace.”