This is one of my most favorite days of the year. I suppose it goes back to my childhood, to my love of food and, perhaps, to a time when the family of my origin called a temporary truce and began to act more like the Waltons and less like the Bunkers. The night, particularly, held a sort of magic as we not only prepared food for the next day's feast, but sensed the ushering-in of the Christmas Season. We lived in an old house--a converted one-room schoolhouse that my dad had built out with some arched doorways, very low ceilings, a couple of posts for support of the
roof, and rough walls. When the decorations went up--the big paper balls and bells that my mom would pull out off the dusty boxes and open out once again, sometimes re-using the Scotch tape that had held them open the year before, and we would make paper chains of red and green construction paper and hang them and, soon, the tree would appear, our house became a magical place where a little boy could just lie on the floor and look up at the lights and decorations and fall into a peaceful slumber (probably partially induced by the multiple boxes of chocolates always open on the dining room table.)
Peace. Maybe it is harder to find in 2016 than in 1960. Or, maybe, it is harder to find in adulthood than in childhood. One thing is for sure: a sense of peace is a precious, precious thing today. I see it in the faces of our congregation--in your faces. And I hear it in the multiple comments I have received lately after worship. "Thank you for your message; it was right on the point. We have so much to worry about, and people are scared." "I have had it up to here with your political sermons." In truth, I understand; preaching Jesus at a time of conflict and, especially in an election year, risks the accusation of the injection of politics into the message. It is a risk that preachers and worship teams everywhere must take. We must preach Jesus at all times, and certainly no less when there is Archie Bunker-type conflict than when people have decided to live as the Waltons.
And, so, we will talk of peace this first Sunday of Advent. Swords beaten into plowshares, spears becoming pruning hooks, war never to be taught again. What instruments of war would we, today, convert to peaceful uses? Can we legitimately claim, after so many years of armed conflict necessitated by the aggressiveness and terrorism of outside forces, to reject war forever? Unless we decide to really listen to one another--to be willing to hear that with which we insist that we must disagree,
and to speak our real truths only after we have come to understand the beliefs of the others, we will not find peace in this season.