'Peace on Earth' - more than a carol phrase or a line on a card
By Rev. Julie Malone, Mt. Hermon Lutheran Church, Annandale
"Peace on Earth" it's much more than a line on a Christmas card or a phrase in a carol!
It was the spring of 1972. I was about to complete my last year at St. James Lutheran School in Howard Lake. If that wasn't exciting enough, I was also about to be confirmed.
All the years of preparation were coming down to this one big event my Confirmation day the occasion in which I confirm my faith in front of God, the entire congregation, my relatives and friends.
One of the "gifts" I was to be given on that day was my confirmation verse. It was to be a special verse given to me by God by way of Pastor Michael who had diligently prayed about it. It was to serve me for the rest of my life.
After eight years of memorizing selected chapters and verses of the Bible as well as entire hymns no matter how many verses they had I was anxious to see which of the many familiar verses I would receive.
However, on that Confirmation morning in front of the altar, as Pastor Michael laid his hand on my head and recited "my" verse I remember being quite disappointed. It was a verse I hadn't heard before.
I remember looking at these words of Jesus over and over again in the days that followed . . .
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled and neither let it be afraid." John 14:27
It was official. I had received the most obscure and incomprehensible verse in the entire Bible. (Although I must admit, my eighth grade vocabulary categorized it as confusing and dumb.) It made no sense to me!
"Peace" what did Jesus mean by that word? The only thing I could correlate to "peace" was its antithesis war.
That didn't scare me as a young girl living in Howard Lake. War was something fought by men in other countries. I was safe and sound in my world.
You see, my world at that time was nothing but peaceful. Everyone I knew was Lutheran and everyone in my world went to church. I had (and still do have) two great parents who provided a very stable Christian home life for me and my three younger siblings. We were (and still are) always surrounded by relatives and friends at every birthday, holiday and any other occasion we chose to celebrate.
In my world I was truly untroubled and unafraid. As an eighth grader I didn't know what peace was, because I didn't know what peace wasn't.
And then I began to grow up. Setting out into the workforce I found that not everyone was Lutheran, went to church, or even believed in God for that matter.
Being a very young mother I began to realize the tremendous effort involved in raising my family by the Christian standards of "family" as I knew it. And it was not going well at all.
Trouble and fear slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) crept into my life, stealing my sense of peace right out from under me. Exhaustion, guilt, and an unhealthy drive to succeed in life took its place.
But thanks be to God for my confirmation verse. It started making perfect sense to me as I gathered more life experiences and tried very unsuccessfully to create peace myself. I began to realize that the peace I was longing for was something I was not going to find in the world.
I also could not turn back the hands of time and return to my childhood where I consistently experienced peace. Where I was going to find it was in the forgiveness and unconditional love of Jesus.
Success, gifts, massages, hobbies, shopping, aromatherapy, clothes, vehicles these things may provide comfort and even a sense of feeling calm and peaceful.
But at the lowest times in my life, it was those who surrounded me with love, patience, understanding and forgiveness where I was able to find and experience the peace I was longing for.
And God continues to put people and circumstances in my life to remind me of this and help me to let go of my own quest for peace for myself and others.
It is not a perfected skill by any means, but I find that when I or those around me exercise those gifts of love, patience, understanding and forgiveness what follows is the sense of peace that only Jesus can give.
I had the extreme privilege of being raised in a peace-filled environment. Unfortunately that is not the case with millions of people in this world.
In my adulthood I also experienced first hand a life where there was no peace. Now, there is hardly a week that goes by that I don't find myself leaning on "my" verse.
In this Advent season, a time to prepare for the celebration of the coming of Jesus into this world, may we all strive to be more loving, patient, understanding and forgiving examples of His "Peace on Earth" in this troubled, fearful, lonely, anxious world.
It is a peace that only He can give and He is counting on us to help spread the word.