Sermon, Christmas Eve 2014: “Peace.”

Text: Luke 2:1-20

My dad had this really bad habit of staying after church and talking to everyone for a really long time! Growing up in the Minnesota farm country, church was the place farmers took a break from work to worship God. But perhaps more important to them, it was to catch up on all the latest news from the neighbors – milk prices, comparing who had the better harvest, and of course….the weather, always the weather. I remember one Christmas Eve being no different. The service ended and once again my old man was talking to all the other farmers about how milk prices were too low, and of course, how cold it was. Enough of that, I thought. I put on my jacket, gloves, and hat and headed out into the winter night to walk 1/2 a mile down the road to our house.

I remember two things about that walk: One, it was cold. Like “what the heck was I thinking” cold. The kind that makes your lungs hurt when you breathe it in, that makes your eyes water and your eyelids freeze. The second thing was on the way, I stopped to adjust my hat and randomly looked up and noticed the sky was really clear. So clear in fact that the stars in the sky were probably brighter than I had ever seen them. I remember stopping in the middle of that dark, quiet country road to my house and simply taking in that night sky…and I felt this sense of total peace just wash over me completely.

People like to talk about how the holiday season of this past couple weeks is the most chaotic, busy, and stressful time of the year. But honestly, I think that life is often like that all of the time. We all face so much in our daily lives, and we spend most of our time with heads down, noses to the grindstone, trying to get ahead, but in all reality, just trying to catch up. As the years have past and I’ve gotten older, I realize I don’t look up at the sky much any more…and I find myself longing for that moment of peace I found out on that country road….but then I think: Peace on earth? Peace among humanity? When I look all around me and what’s going on in the world and in our nation, I think….not so much.

[I sing this] Peace on earth, peace on earth, did the angels waste their words……

I was listening to this song two days ago as I was thinking about what to say to you all tonight. And I think it says perfectly where we live most days: in between the longing for peace in our lives, but so unsure of where it will come from and when it will come. We pray to God for peace, and we say we have faith God will deliver it, but the promise of peace…..are they empty, wasted words? Is it an empty promise?

I sometimes think so….and then I look up.

I look up to the night sky and realize that the same sky I looked at as a kid is the same sky the shepherds looked up to on that first Christmas night. It was on that night that they heard the good news: a savior is born to us, God coming to be with us……and through this child, also brings this promise:

[I sing this] Peace with God, peace with God. Offered through one Holy child. Even when this life is hard, there can be peace with God. There can be peace with God.
Tonight, this story reminds us that we no longer face this world alone….there can be peace with God. God sends a savior, his son – Jesus, who is our peace. And when the hardness of life causes us to keep our heads down, our noses to the grindstone, trying desperately to catch up, longing for a sense of peace…..all we have to do is look up.

All we have to do is look up each and every day and see that God is with us, Christ is with us: In the words and actions of others, in seemingly ordinary places and moments and things…..if we simply look up, we’ll sense it, and we’ll discover that God, that peace….has found us. That can be hard to do most days….because I don’t know about you, but in a day or two, it’s back to our hard lives, back to putting the nose to the grindstone, back to catching up.

But, maybe just for tonight it’s enough to look up and discover that God and God’s peace is all around us – a piece of bread, a cup of wine….a candlelight, words of a carol…..and the presence of this small gathering in this place, we confess and we pray:

[sing] peace on earth, peace on earth, did the angels waste their words? Everywhere, raise this prayer: let there be peace on earth. Let there be peace on earth.

God’s peace be with you…..Merry Christmas. Amen.

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