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15th of December

The Presence of Peace in the Midst of Grief


The second week of Advent, we light that second candle.  The peace candle.

Peace.

I want that flame to touch every wicked thing around the world this Christmas. I want peace on earth and goodwill to spread towards all.  This is what we sing this season, isn’t it?  Peace?  Goodwill?

And yet, Aleppo’s without water and there are reports of civilian executions and it all’s so far away.  But there’s the “bombings” we don’t see going on in homes here—maybe our own—because people cannot tolerate differing opinions and relationships are being blown to bits because love professed is not love practiced.

And then there are the inner chambers. The heart parts that others can’t see. And we want peace in those places too, don’t we?

I do.

I want peace within.  I want an end to all this suffering across the world, in our families, in our hearts.  CHRIST-mas is when CHRIST appears and brings PEACE on Earth, GOODWILL toward all.

We wonder as we wander through these Holy Days of December . . .

If Jesus is our PEACE as He proclaims, then why all the discord, the angst, the pain?  Even in those who profess belief in His name?

As I write these words, it’s raining on the inside here. That recessed light above me is dripping melted snow right off the roof, right through the light and into a red bucket I placed on the carpet to catch the drip, drip, dripping of a crying ceiling.    

How does one find and keep peace with the constant drip of grief and this gnawing sense of vulnerable inside our collective soul?  While most are buying and wrapping presents, I remember how fragile we are.  How fragile life is.  How in a moment, we and our loved ones can be gone.

Maybe, like me, you’re still having dreams, these many years later, thinking you still need to call your mother (or your brother, sister, or some other loved one).  Then you wake and realize, again, they’re gone.

And it’s nearly Christmas, again.

My heart still squeezes sad when I remember my mother’s heart that squeezed the last of life right out of her on Mother’s Day, 2002, only hours after we hung up the phone and thought all was well. The dozen carnations I sent were still fresh in her fragile crystal vase, still fragrant the day after she was gone. Oh, how I wanted to smell her, to wrap my arms around her warm, living body that was no more.  So I flung open her closet door and buried my nose in her bathrobe. I sobbed as I embraced her empty robe still strong with the fragrance of her. The sun was shining that day.  But grief poured heavy inside me, inside her earthly home.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel the joy and the sorrow side-by-side, sometimes conjoined and I wonder, how can this be?  I suspect grief holds hands with joy for many this Christmas. There are so many sorts of losses.  Expectations. Hopes. Dreams. Loved ones.

But then, you pull yourself together and realize all your gratitude for simple things that multitudes don’t have in war-torn places like Aleppo where the innocent are trapped a wicked war.  And you try to balance gratitude with ineptitude, knowing you can’t scream across an ocean and tell all those acting out to cut it out and go to their rooms until they’re ready to come out and be civil.  Instead, the raging and killing goes on. And you wonder what on earth is happening and how in the world will the insanity ever stop?

How can we go about being merry when so many are suffering?

How do we have PEACE in grief, in pain, in the face of all our fallen because of that first desire to know evil (Genesis 3:5)?  When this Earth spins crazy sickening?  When even brain synapses fail to fill properly and we fall into pits and shatter to pieces?  When genes pass on, leaving a loved one with breath hard to catch? When yet another teen took her life, proving just how epidemic suicide has become among our youth? When all your kids have special needs and you need not to break down but you do?  When one in Minnesota is born premature, unable to swallow, still at five months?  All this grief can get too much to swallow.  And these are just a handful of those I know.

There can be a hollow even in abundance—a knowing there’s a need for fresh filling.  Most hope for something better—some messiah—something or someone to fill us full and cure us all from the cancer of evil thrown in our faces from our daily diet of news.

When the problems seem so beyond us and we just want a silent night–some respite from the raging storms . . .

When we sing Peace On Earth in church, are we just wishful?

I’m not.

Because I believe PEACE is not a concept—or a feeling—or a state of being.

PEACE is a PERSON.

Fully human.  Fully divine.  Jesus Christ, LORD of all time.

That PEACE is the PRESENCE of a PERSON who has the POWER to take every bit of grief and despair and crush the evil that wants to crush us.  We must believe.  And worship.  And pray.  And wait.

There are things not yet made whole that WILL be made whole and HOLY.  Surely, Jesus has promised (Isaiah 65:17-25)

In the present, I might shake with anxiety or cry with grief.  But I can STILL know PEACE because PEACE is CHRIST.  Current feelings do not negate my eternal belief.  In fact, my belief comforts my feelings (Isaiah 49:13).

God knows of what we are made.  God knows and hears and responds to the cries of every heart.  He feels with us.  But he implores us to hold onto Him for the day coming when He will make ALL things new—when He will restore humanity and all His creation.

We who know this CHRIST of CHRIST-mas have a blessed assurance even in the midst of great grief.

That’s why we can have HOPE and PEACE and JOY and LOVE this Christmas.  Because CHRIST is WITH us still.  Always was.  Always is.  Always will be.  He promised.  Christ IS our hope, our peace, our joy, our love.

Lovely, do you know?

There may be some real, deep suffering this Christmas, when days go dark and, for the life of us, we can’t see light. We can’t feel The Light in whom there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). We believe in The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) but we can’t feel His presence or His peace. We just BELIEVE and TRUST and WAIT.  And we do the next right thing, as much as we can, by God’s grace, each and every day. We may run or walk or hobble by faith. But FAITH moves us onward. And EMMAUNEL—God WITH us still—is our PEACE.  Always and forever.

 

 

 

 

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