A couple of years ago the vicar and I spent a cold and snowy December weekend at Yosemite National Park. We arrived late in the evening on a starless night that was very, very dark. I’m not speechless very often (just ask the vicar) but the next morning when I opened the door and stepped outside, there were no words that could possibly describe the wintery awe of snow-covered ground, snow-laden trees, snow-capped granite cliffs…well, you get the idea. It was sheer magical magnificence, and I couldn’t wait to get out and explore! For two days we bundled up and hiked trails that were “mostly” marked – when they weren’t covered with snow – and just took in the sheer beauty all around us. On the second day I wanted to spend some time alone before it was time to head down the mountain, and set out on a 3-mile hike with little more than a trail map and a prayer. There are many things I remember in vivid detail about that hike, but none of them surpass the sense of absolute quiet, the only sounds being the crunch of snow beneath my boots and the occasional plop of falling snow from the branch of a pine tree. That was it – no people, no cars, no machinery…just the occasional sound of the river, and even that seemed to be muffled in the same blanket that hushed everything under the weight of freshly fallen snow. I’ve never experienced that kind of peaceful quiet in the outdoors, and it was truly profound.
Christmas traditions are such a large part of the season, and for the vicar’s family, there are added traditions such as cleaning up after the Christmas Eve service, which for most years ended at midnight. After the sanctuary was straightened, the candles were out, the luminaries stored away, the doors locked and the remaining bread and juice finished off by the youngest two Warrens, it was time to go home and…..finish wrapping presents! It wasn’t unusual to finally fall into bed after 2:00am, but before that, were always those beautiful, sacred, peaceful moments when everything had finally been done and I knew that the next day would be just for us – sometimes I would stay up even longer just to sit in front of the tree in the stillness of the early morning hour just to hold on to that feeling….
Recently I was blessed to be able to spend a few hours with a newborn baby, and what a joy it was! It’s been such a long time since I’ve just held one so little for as long as I wanted and to my delight this tiny guy was a snuggler! I leaned back into a corner of the couch, laid his swaddled little body on my chest, and for the next hour I just listened to him breathe and felt his tiny heart beating as he slept completely at peace in my arms.
The word can mean so many different things, and for some it’s the last thing they are feeling during the holidays. This Advent series is especially devoted to those who are hurting, and there is something I want you dear ones to know about peace….
The hushed trail I hiked that snowy December was at one time charred and devastated by forest fire.
The sacred early morning moments between Christmas Eve and Christmas will never hold the same joy when one of the Warrens isn’t here to wake up to.
That precious tiny baby boy I got to hold was born drug addicted and is being nurtured by a loving foster family.
Friends, if we define peace as the feeling we get when everything is right with the world, we may never find it. But if we can dare to step a little further and think of peace as more than a feeling we get when all is right with the world, just maybe we can learn to find peace living alongside the pain and the loss. In that place, peace isn’t just for the joyful or the mentally healthy or for picture perfect families, but for you and for me, wherever we are and however we feel.
That silent night we sing about this time of year? It came following the fear of no place to safely bring Jesus into the world. It came following the pain of childbirth. Peace didn’t come because everything was right in the world. It came precisely because it wasn’t….
On this second Sunday of Advent, when we light the candle of Peace, I encourage you to do just that. Find a candle where you are, strike a match and light the flame of peace. Not because you feel it. But because even if you don’t, it’s yours just the same. He knows, friends….he knows how difficult it is for us to hold onto peace when it hurts so much. But the good news is that Jesus didn’t come to bring us peace. He came to be peace. And no matter what happens, no matter what it “feels” like….he’s not going anywhere. If he spoke to the wind and waves to calm and they did, he can certainly quiet our hearts. So, my prayer for all the hurting this season is to know the one who is peace, and in Him to find hope and healing. You are never alone!