Peace be Upon You

Oh, my dear beloveds… will you humour me in a little exercise? Take a big deep breath in through your nose and fill up your lungs to the deepest capacity … now let it all out in a big ol’ sigh. I don’t know about you, but I needed that after the last few hours. The weather outside has been “frightful” here in the last day or so, and old man winter is certainly making his presence known in our neck of the woods. Normally, I don’t mind too much… but last night both my hubby and my eldest son were out driving in it. Late, after dark, alone. And as much as my dearests tell me not to fret, the all-season, I repeat, not-official-snow-tired-car with ABS brakes make me nervous to drive in … for fear I am the only woman driver on the road who will find the obscure patch of black ice and go crashing into a telephone pole. Or worse still, a rambunctious reindeer who recently escaped from a small town Christmas parade finds my son on his way home in said unsafe car…

Anyway, you get the picture. I worry a bit about bad weather. I worry a lot about driving in it. I think I am getting old. Grandma genes are starting to settle in. And there is nothing like a taste of old lady frailty (read anxiety) to rob you of that peace within. I know you know what I am talking about. Seems fitting that this second week of advent is “peace” week. A gentle reminder to me to attempt to bring my heart back to that state of peace. Especially as we anticipate the nativity scene… all babies wrapped in swaddling clothes, quietly sleeping amongst the barnyard animals. (All the moms out there recognize that this, too, is far from a realistic scenario… barn animals, people… and what newborn isn’t screaming for food in the middle of the night?) but the story of Jesus’ birth brings our focus to a unique place: Bethlehem.

Let’s look at it a little shall we? I did a little digging and here are some”fun facts” I dug up about “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah”. In Hebrew, it is called “Beit Lechem” which roughly translates as the “House of Bread”. Perfect for Christmas holidays, I’d say. Warm toast brings me peace! Bethlehem is home to approximately 25 000 people… both Christian and Muslim. Interestingly, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the U.S. is home to 800 000 Americans… who probably see just as many tourists!

The proposed “exact spot” where Jesus was born is marked by a silver star, that leads to an underground grotto or cave. Of course, the surrounding area is the tourist mecca for those seeking Christian history. With a large market for trinkets and a chance to profit from the bus tours. Maybe as much as Bethlehem, PA. I’m guessing either would be a cool place to visit… (dreamily look off into the distance… House of Bread… Amish baked goods…) Still, the Middle East has been far from a “symbol of peace” in recent years. Or the U.S.A, for that matter. Which brings us back full circle.

As you continue on in your Advent journey of faith, may you be prompted with thoughts of peace this week from the only One who gives true peace. And may your anxieties be comforted … even as you drive along the icy roads of life.

Photo: wiirocku Tumbler

What is Peace?

Peace. Joy. Love. Twinkle stars and green grinch hearts that grow. ‘Tis the season of spreading good wishes and warm fuzzies. But let’s get real for a second. Crowded parking lots, tired bodies, loneliness and pain often marr our Hallmark movie visions of what this season is supposed to look like. Tensions ride high and our often idealistic gatherings end in hurt feelings and anger. We are human — it happens.

Last week, I discovered that December 12th has been set aside by the United Nations as “International Day of Neutrality”. Which got me thinking about this whole idea of peace. Is it easier to just be “neutral” in order to keep the peace? To let things go? To simply sweep tensions under the rug rather than cause a scene? Maybe you’ve faced this delima at your last holiday gathering? A co-worker with whom you’ve had a disagreement? Or in-laws that have become out-laws? The holidays seem to bring out the best — and the worst — in some people. Let’s think about it a little more…

According to the Oxford dictionary, “neutrality” means:

Artwork symbolizing ‘peace in the world’ © United Nations
  1. the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; “impartiality.”
  2. absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling.”the clinical neutrality of the description”
  3. the condition of being chemically or electrically neutral.

The UN extended this definition even further to: “the abstention of a state from all participation in a war between other states” while still maintaining “an attitude of impartiality toward the belligerents”. Try that at your next party. Belligerents indeed.

All of this sounds wonderful. No one wants war. World peace is a noble goal. But wait. Doesn’t the Bible talk about a time for peace and a time for war? It’s confusing isn’t it? And as much as I appreciate activists waging war on political leaders, and as much as I don’t want bomb threats and lock downs becoming realities at my children’s schools, I must narrow down this idea in my own little world. How do I, as a Jesus follower, take a stand for what is Biblically correct, and still be respected in my community?

I found some insightful views via Kaitlin Garrison and her post on The Barefoot Blog. She has outlined it much better than I can, so I encourage you to read it there. She explains that there is a significant difference between being peacekeepers and peacemakers. Peacekeepers would make the UN proud by avoiding all conflict and simply staying neutral. No opinions must be voiced, no thoughts shared. Peacemakers, on the other hand, are lovingly honest. They lay Biblical truths on the table and discuss the conflict at hand with hopes of resolution and true peace. Jesus was not one to back down from a fight. Yet, His birth is surrounded with this idea of peace. There’s gotta be some correlation.

I’m afraid I may not be making my views crystal clear on this one… and maybe it’s because I am struggling with the practicalities of this myself. I tend to avoid the conflict by keeping my mouth shut. Introverts peacekeep well this way. But maybe it’s time to open up a bit. To peace make instead of peace keep. Perhaps this season, we can be bold together… to be more honest with ourselves and others. To make our feelings known, yet still love our neighbours. It is no easy task. But I’ve got your back. And I wish you a season of true peace this Christmas!