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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Peace!

From Delta College Global Peace Studies
University Center, Michigan

Copyright © 2014
By Ralph F. Couey
Written Content Only.

The word “Peace” has a multitude of meanings and contexts from the cessation of conflict to those rare golden hours at home when the kids have gone to sleep. It is a word that is used most widely during the Christmas season.

In Hebrew, the word is Shalom, which covers quite a bit of ground. Wholeness, joy, freedom, harmony – both physical and spiritual. It can also mean community, reconciliation, as well as truth, justice, and humanity.

Christians have always associated this word with this particular season, mainly because of the story as it is told in the scriptures. Nobody will ever forget that moment in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus stands on the stage and recites the passage from the second chapter of Luke…

“And there were in the same country shepherds, 
abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the Glory of the Lord shown round about them, 
and they were sore afraid.
But the Angel said unto them, “Fear not! 
For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy 
which shall be to all people. 
For unto you this day is born in the City of David, 
a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: 
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes 
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the Angel 
a multitude of the heavenly host, 
praising God and saying, 
“Glory to God in the highest! 
And on earth, Peace; good will toward men!”

…and his stunningly simple denouement, 

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

And on earth, Peace.

Peace has so many meanings that it can be difficult to tie it down to one thing. I'm sure it means, at least in part, the end of war; conflict between nations.

As of this week, there are 43 armed conflicts occurring in the world. Some are familiar, thanks to the media coverage. Most though, are either unknown or ignored by most people. Whether known or unknown, acknowledged or ignored, these conflicts have resulted so far in 2014 in the deaths of nearly 120,000 humans.

Some of these conflicts, wars actually, are recent, starting just this year. Others have been raging for decades. The human toll is a staggering 6.8 million. That total only includes current ongoing conflicts, not the few hundred million or so who perished over the last 5,000 years.

At a more basic level, it can also mean for us to just treat each other better; to stop seeking conflict where none existed, and make the effort to heal those conflicts that we already have. I think it was Mark Twain who said something to the effect of, “There are three types of people. Those you love, those you hate, and those you never think about one way or the other.” It would certainly do us a lot of good to make peace with those with whom we have less than convivial feelings. By the way, that helps others as well since there are few things that make a room more uncomfortable than the presence of two angry people.

A case could be made for justice as a source of peace. I struggle with that as I have observed that justice exists in the eye of the beholder and is thus quite often merely revenge, and thinly veiled at that.

I think, though, that the most important aspect of peace is the spiritual and emotional environment that exists within ourselves. That space is fundamental to our well-being, and to those who live within our relational circle.  If you are not at peace with yourself, there’s no way you can make peace anywhere else.

When we think of our relationship with Jesus, we know it to be an intensely personal one. There really is no intercession or intervention required to go to Him. The only ticket one needs is prayer. And it’s a free ticket. We all have the same access, and he will give all of us the same private communion whenever we ask.

In addition, He asks us to lay our burdens at his feet. Those worries and concerns, that sadness and self-doubt which we carry creates the inner turmoil which so often stands between us and peace. You see, He not only took upon him our sins, but also the loads we all carry. Anyone who has had to carry a 100-lb sack of feed across a barnyard knows the depth of relief when we can finally put it down. If we can have the faith to release our own burdens as easy as we would drop that sack of feed, we would become truly free. And at peace.

We should consider peace in its macro context and work for the end of wars, the mediation of conflict, and solving those myriad problems that bring us to battle with each other. But don’t neglect the micro, the oft-ignored inner part of our existence. Remember the old Christmas carol, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Search for peace in your heart, for your heart, with your heart. Let that peace shine through your face, your words, your actions. Peace is contagious, so try to infect as many others as you can. You may not change the world. But at least your corner of it can become a much better place.

And that is a gift that will keep on giving.

“Peace I leave with you;

My peace I give you.
The peace I give is a gift
the world cannot give.
Let not your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
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