Peace This Season

Good Morning Church,

Welcome to Advent, the season of hope and anticipation. The season of awaiting the promise of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and the promise of His Second Coming at the end of time. Today's Gospel from Matthew lifts up the theme of peace as we engage with the decision which Joseph had to make after discovering Mary’s pregnancy.

Matthew says: "Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." (Matt. 1:19)

Joseph is faced with a difficult decision. Does he remain with Mary, or does he divorce her as the law would have him do. Joseph would have been worried about the reaction that others would have given him. He would have been uncertain about what would be the response of his community. He was a young man in good standing, but wondered what this revelation would mean to his reputation.

We have all felt an uneasiness about what others might think about us, even if we would look at this decision by Joseph and say that he should stay with Mary. We see where the story will lead him, but he doesn’t see that from where he is now. There is fear about what this decision will mean for him and his life. Yet we as Christians must seek the guidance of God and this will soon be coming for Joseph.

The Advent season cautions us, I believe, not to become absorbed in the daily worries of life. Not to let the daily worries weigh our heads, our eyes and focus, down to watching our feet. But rather, Advent calls us to keep our eyes focused on the Big picture -- on the big promise of Christ to come again. To look to and through the Cross of Christ to his second coming. Advent calls us to be on guard that our hearts not be weighed down with the worries of this life because we become so absorbed with watching our feet that we lose sight of where they are taking us -- to the Kingdom of God.

Luke talks about the coming Kingdom when he says, "Now when these things begin to take place stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near -- the Kingdom of God is drawing near." I know that this year has been a difficult and challenging season of life. There has been many moments that have been lost and we are continuing to lose, but I also know that there is hope for a better life to come. We gather at Christmas time to remember that hope and promise of this life that we believe will come. Even though we can not gather in the same way this year, we know that God is still present. As Paul says, there is nothing that separates us from the love of God in Jesus. We have been given a wonderful gift that now we once again prepare our hearts to receive. This week, we lit the candle of peace to remind ourselves of the peace that came in the form of Jesus. We are renewed in our knowledge of the love of God and the new life that we received through him. It has been a difficult year to feel the peace of God that was promised and yet Jesus continues to call to us and share with us the peace that will cure our ailing hearts.

Christmas 1914, the world was just a few months into a war that would eventually claim the lives of 15 million people. Yet on this Christmas something very fascinating happened. In September of that year, Pope Benedict XV, took office and called for a Christmas truce. The desire of the Pope was not well received by the leadership of any country, but it was well received by the soldiers in the trenches. The soldiers, completely of their own accord, began to climb out of their trenches and celebrate the season with the enemy on the other side. It is believed that some 100,000 soldiers participated in the truce, beginning with carols being sung from the trenches on Christmas Eve. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

These soldiers, in the middle of one of the worst conflicts this world has ever seen, found the peace of Christ. They were able to lay down their arms and stand beside the very people that they were fighting with the night before.

On Christmas day, the soldiers on both sides began to make their way across the fields to exchange gifts of food, buttons and hats. They put together makeshift footballs and played impromptu games. There is even rumor that a British soldier received a haircut from his pre war German barber.

Though this was simply a truce and not actual peace, I believe those soldiers did experience the kind of freedom that only could have been seen through their shared faith in the peace of Christ.

Our passage from Matthew shares this moment for Joseph where the angel comes and visits him in a dream. Joseph was concerned about what the community would think about him if he were to stay with Mary. The angel comes and reassures him that God will provide and give them what they need. The angel gave Joseph peace in this moment that freed him to do the right thing and remain with Mary.

This is the same peace that the soldiers experienced during this truce and it is the same peace that we can experience during this time of social distancing. Though we are not able to have the Christmas season that we have been accustomed to and appreciate greatly.

Though this year may not be the kind of Christmas that we look forward to, it is my prayer that we can find the peace that we need for this season of life. Let us never forget that we are the beloved children of God. Let us remember that there is nothing that can separate us from this love. Let this season be seen not as a burden, but rather an opportunity to reach out to our church family in new ways. Even distanced, we can still be the church in this uncertain time. Let us allow for the promise of this season to wash over us and bring us peace in our times of need. It is important to remember that the season is not about us, but rather is about celebrating Jesus Christ. Something that can never be taken away from us no matter the circumstances. And all God’s people say, Amen.