Today is the second Sunday of Advent and the theme is peace. I had planned to preach a sermon this morning called “Where’s the Peace?” but a winter storm got in the way. Since I knew we would have a small crowd with all the snow and ice I decided to save that sermon for another time and do something different this morning. Still, tonight I find myself still thinking about the question, “Where’s the Peace?” Peace is something we’re called to think about every Advent season. There are lots of songs using the words “peace on earth” and a lot of the Scripture passages we hear read, from both the Old and New Testaments, mention peace. It’s obvious that there’s supposed to be peace in the world due to Christ’s coming but in many places it’s missing. The absence is not just felt between warring nations but in places of business and a lot of homes as well. It’s absence is likely felt even more often within individuals. I’m not sure there are a lot of people today who can honestly claim they are at peace in their heart. I know it is often missing in my own. Present circumstances beg the question, where’s the peace?
I know I’m supposed to have the answer. I realize I’m expected as a Christian minister to say peace is found in Jesus Christ but I’m learning it’s not as simple as that. I’ve already confessed my own lack of peace and I see its absence in family, friends and churches. Lots of people who profess and follow Christ are still missing the “peace that passes all understanding” and find it hard to relate to the angelic message of “peace on earth and good will to men.”
Where’s the peace? I cannot answer that question for everyone but these days I tend to find it most in the world of nature. When the winter storm hit Henderson this weekend I headed to the woods with my camera. In the woods things were quiet and still. There was no hustle and bustle, no arguing or fighting, no tension or stress. I typically find a sense of calm and peace in the outdoors that I do not experience in the busier parts of my life. When I posted pictures I had taken over the weekend on Facebook a number of people said they looked “peaceful.” When people use that word I think they often do so with a sense of longing.
Now please don’t read into anything I’ve written today that I’ve lost my faith. The truth is I feel more peaceful in the outdoors because that is where I tend to feel Christ most present. I think the constant noise, distractions and busyness of my everyday world makes it hard for me to experience the peace Christ offers. Perhaps that’s a sign of weakness for me. Maybe I should be able to experience the nearness of Christ at all times and in all places. I know there are great Christians who claim that’s been true for them. It’s just not true for me, not at this point in my life anyway.
After the worship service this morning a woman came up and asked me where I had been photographing the snow. I told her that I had spent most of my time at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area. She then said, “We’re lucky to have that sanctuary nearby.” The force of her words spoken to me in our own church sanctuary struck home. The places I had been spending my time the past couple of days truly are sanctuaries for me. They are places I felt God’s nearness and experienced peace.
In the end I cannot answer the question “where’s the peace?” for everyone but I can affirm for me it is out in nature communing with the Maker of heaven and earth. I thank God for this other sanctuary and hope that somehow, someway, somewhere, you will be able to experience the peace of God in the coming days.
(I took the top picture at John James Audubon State Park and the bottom three at Henderson Sloughs W.M.A. this weekend.)