“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” recorded here in a more modern version by Casting Crowns, introduces Advent Candle 2: Peace. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1865 wrote a poem Christmas Bells, in the midst of the Civil War, his beloved second wife having died and his first son having joined the army against the poet’s wishes. Burl Ives and Bing Crosby brought the song to the public. Casting Crowns updated the tune a bit but the lyrics still focus our attention on the dissonance that exists between the reality of life with pandemics, controversies over elections, job insecurity and family conflicts – just to name some of the obvious – and the faith we hold that there is a God acting behind the scenes, creating peace between God and people.
So how do we define “peace?” We remember the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973 ending the Vietnam War…but it did not end war for we also remember Desert Storm, 911 and the seemingly unending conflicts in our lifetime with refugees fleeing all over the world. Today we remember Pearl Harbor and WW2. Webster defines peace as a state of tranquility, an absence of hostility and violence, or a state of security or order provided by law or custom. Whether we think of national wars or social unrest in our streets, peace seems to elude us. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)” The peace we talk about this second week of Advent is not political nor necessarily social but rather is spiritual. We will look at our four gospels again because the authors turn our hearts from the tensions of this life to the eternal peace we talk about at Christmas.
Perhaps a fun way to unlock our thinking would be to do an acronym on the word peace. Take each letter of the word peace and write word associations that start with that letter. So “p” may bring to mind “pity – peace is not pitying my plight nor the plight of others.” I have a friend that might think of “peas” that she was made to eat to clean her plate as a child and so she thinks about coming to peace with that memory and peas. Be creative. Christmas is creative. Tomorrow we will look at how peace became reality for Joseph in the gospel of Matthew. Peaceful ponderings as you go through today.