Finding God’s peace

Deacon Sheila M. Scott
Christmas Eve

I love Christmas, the nativity story, the carols, the hymns, and the sense of peace I get from the services. I have fond memories of being a young child trying to understand the mystery surrounding the birth of Jesus, and what it meant to have the Son of God come among us.

You may think I had bleak Christmas celebrations due to growing up in a communist country, where public celebration of Christmas was forbidden, where there were no lights, no Christmas decorations, no Christmas music playing on the radio 24/7, but for me, Christmas was magical thanks to my Grandmother and Great Aunt who made sure we understood: Christmas was about God’s gift of love to us all.

Given American standards, I know our Christmas celebrations did not measure up, but in my mind, they were perfect.  From the time St. Nicholas took our Christmas wish list on December 5th, to Christmas Eve – when we gathered around the newly decorated and candle lit Christmas tree to sing carols and receive our presents – we could hardly contain our excitement, but we knew we had to keep it a secret away from home, if we did not want to get in trouble for our anti-communist beliefs.

I would lie if I claimed we did not look forward to our presents, but there was so much more to Christmas…. Christmas transported us into an alternate reality, away from the harshness and dryness of the communist propaganda, to a place of love, light, and goodness.

I internalized these early Christmas experiences, and these memories kept me going, in the ever bleaker years of communist regime once I became an adolescents and young adult.

I thank God for my Grandmother and Great Aunt for their tireless efforts to make our Christmas experiences memorable when we were young children, they securely planted God’s love in our hearts.

Many years have passed since. I hope I have a more mature understanding of Christmas, but the mystery of the Incarnation is still beyond human comprehension, and I believe that is what makes the Christmas story fascinating even now.

There is a reason why Jesus came in human flesh as the heavenly son of an earthly mother. He came to be like us so that He might change us to be like Him. He came to teach us who He is, and who He created us to be. So in an answer to our question: what is God like, we could say confidently, God is like Jesus, God is Love.

Throughout his earthly life, he taught us tirelessly how to be the humans we were created to be, how to love, how to forgive, how to be obedient to God, just like Mary and Joseph were obedient, and how to live our lives for the benefit of others. He entered into the midst of humanity’s suffering, pain and injustice to be with us as Emmanuel.

He came as a light shining brightly in the darkness of our anxieties. Throughout history in general and in our times in particular, we live in a time of great anxiety.  Isn’t it ironic that all the things we have done and invented, we have not reduced anxiety at all; in fact technological advances have increased our anxieties, rather than reduced them. If we continue looking for human fixes for our anxieties: for increased security, wealth, and possessions, we will never find peace. Peace is found in God alone.

The angel of the Lord said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing  you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 10-12)

We need to look for signs of God’s peace in our times.

The birth of that child was a sign of God’s love, mercy, and grace; a sign of God’s peace. In a world full of anxiety, we have to be intentional in finding God’s peace.  We will find it in the common, everyday things of life: in the kindness of others, in the generosity of friends and strangers, in caring for needy, the destitute, the refugees, the sick, and the dying.

God’s peace will never be found in possessions, rather it will always be found in human interaction. It does not matter how many bible verses we can recite by heart, it matters how we treat our neighbors, all our neighbors, not only those we like, even those who are different, and worship different from us.

Our world cries out for peace and justice, but it is clear that peace is not possible in our world, anywhere in the world, until domination and control are abolished. Until the focus is on greed, gain, and injustice, to benefit some at the cost of others, we will not have peace.

Today more than ever, we are called to be instruments of God’s peace. God only knows, we need peacemakers. Peacemaking is harder than we think, it requires dedication, patience, perseverance, and resistance to hate and violence.

Will you answer God’s call to be an instrument of peace in our deeply divided and broken world?

I will conclude with the Prayer of St. Francis:

O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is discord, harmony.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may never

Seek so much to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love with all my soul;

For it is in giving that we receive;

In pardoning that we are pardoned;

And in dying that we are born to Eternal life”