Peace in the Eye of the Storm
December 17, 2018
My favorite passage of Scripture. It means “God makes his face to shine upon you”. God draws near to you. God wants the very best for you. You are beloved. And you may be feeling sick right now, full of grief, lonely, worried about your job, scared that you don’t have enough to make ends meet, disappointed in your family or your spouse. God loves you and beams out love to you this season.
Soon, we will witness a miracle of sorts, as we collectively change gears. There is a mad rush here for the next few hours as people scramble to find a last minute gift, work extra hard to get everything done, rush to stock up on food for the holiday.
And then sometime on Christmas eve, our great metropolis will start to really shut down. Every single business will start to close. All of us will find a home and gather to be with each other.
I light a fire just after midnight, wrap a present or two, a pour myself a couple fingers of Scotch that a friend gives me and look at the tree with Kate. And it keeps getting quieter, more peaceful, quieter and more peaceful…
Someone told me that they signed up to serve breakfast on Christmas morning at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan in Midtown. Her kids were grown and moved away, her husband had died. So she saw this as a window to do something creative on Christmas Day. Only she didn’t realize that the trains don’t run, so she took her car into New York on Christmas morning at 6:00 in the morning. It was snowing that year. The Lincoln Tunnel was literally empty.
The snow was coming down hard. She gets to Broadway at 6:30 a.m. on Christmas morning. There is not a single car driving in either direction. She parks and starts walking up the middle of Broadway with her arms up in the air. It was completely quiet for a moment. She said, “It was like a miracle”. Peace in the City that Never Sleeps.
We know that it is only a moment, like being at the eye of the storm. We were at the beach one year when a hurricane hit. The winds kept picking up speed- 60, 80, 100 miles an hour. Stuff was being torn off the sides of buildings flying down the road. Everyone was under cover, then under deep cover. Water was blowing into the house from the tiniest cracks and the sand felt like bb’s hitting you. Even small objects like hunk of wood became lethal weapons flying that hard. All you could do was batton down and hope for the best.
Then it all came to a sudden stop, an eerie stillness. The sun even came out and shined a bit. People started emerging from their forced shelter. They came to say ‘hello’ to their neighbors, to check on each other and compare notes about the danger. Kids were spontaneously just dancing around with each other like a party was trying to break out. And for about 15 minutes this kind of supernatural calm settled on us, with smiles, relaxed hugs, smiles and mirth. It was the eye of the storm.
Christmas is a lot like that. Collectively, the storm pace of events swirling around us come to a halt, a short respite. The gun violence, the threats of terrorist attack, the over-hyped rhetoric of partisan politics, the nuclear threat from North Korea, the smuggled rockets from Hezbollah, the IED’s from the ISIS, fires in California, melting ice caps in Greenland, sexual harassment and outing the celebrities that have engaged in it for a lifetime.- all these threats to our world, some very serious, some just seriously annoying- all of what collectively makes up the swirling maelstrom of our wider social background… It just comes to a stop.
And for a moment, we rest. For a moment, we just relate to each other as family, as friends. We share the morning. We eat, we go back to bed. We remember the child like perspective of mystery, wonder, expectation. We are simply present with each other. Everyone gets a gift. And for a bit, we are fulfilled. We take care of each other. We bless each other.
The howling winds will return shortly, we know that. But for a moment, l hope that you will be in peace with your people. For a moment, I hope you will engage your expansive self, the one that gifts others, that hosts others, that makes room and includes those that need someone to reach out to them. I hope you can release yourself from the things that drag you down and you can recover your higher self.
And remember, it is all a gift. Our lives are not long and we really are grateful to be alive. We are grateful for those that have loved us. We are grateful for even the quirky, odd, eccentric people in our extended family. Even with nutty Uncle Jim, it is all good really.
It is one of the best ideas we Christians have ever come up with, to celebrate the Coming of the Prince of Peace by taking a day to make actual peace settle upon our own homes.
Bill Coffin was fond of saying that “peace, like war, must be waged”. We have to be intentional about wanting it. We have to give peace structure and make a day for it. And Christians did precisely that. We dedicated one day to being at peace, engaging our gracious sides.
And in the Spring we have one other huge holiday, Easter, when we dedicate ourselves to hope.
Christians believe in three fundamental values: Peace, hope, and love. The Christ came to teach us that this is what our world really needs. This is what our community needs. This is what our family needs. This is how we thrive and actualize the higher spiritual reasons for which we were born.
Little wonder that Christmas has become the most popular religious holiday in human history, taking over every single country that has even a minority population of Christians.
It is what our world needs, what our people need. Next week, I’ll go visit my mother. She hasn’t recognized me in years. She has advanced, end stage Alzheimer’s. I’ll hold her and tell who it is and nothing will change in her face.
But after a while, she will stop shaking, she will be at peace in the presence of one of her children. One of my granddaughters said to me, “Papa, it’s a miracle”. Yes, it is. Yes, it is.
And God draws near to you and God blesses you with that deeper peace. May peace fill your soul. May peace pervade your home. And may you radiate love to your people and even to those that are difficult to love. It is the true spiritual gift that we can give to each other in this season, the one we need most of all. Peace be with you.