I simply love this time of the year… I was reminded of it Tuesday night as our granddaughter Abby, as a member of the Middle School Chorus, joined in singing the Gloria portion of The Messiah. It was absolutely heart warming. If that can’t get you in the Christmas spirit nothing can.
I love hearing the bell ringing of the Salvation Army volunteers as they collect money at their red kettles to help those in need this time of the year. I find some sort of peace in knowing that more people will be generous and more will be helped.
I love the Peanuts television special perhaps more than all the rest because in the most simplest of terms these characters remind us about the Love, Hope, Joy and Peace that God brings into this world through Jesus Christ.
Somewhere along the way we have lost most of that basic character in our lives. I remember growing up in small town southern America where life was simple and peaceful (for the most part). I remember a time when the United States use to be “We” the people. We kinda stood together, acted with kindness and decorum. (I apologize for the big section of “WE” that we left out… but I will save that for another time). Acted for the best interest of all above the selfish interest of ourselves. Yes, we wanted to get ahead, but only as we earned our stripes, put our time in, and deserved that step up. We waited in line, didn’t try to jump ahead of others and treated others with respect.
Did this happen to you like it did to me? One morning, I think sometime in the 80’s (maybe) I woke up and the world had changed. People were cutting you off, missing your bumper by inches just to speed to the next stop light where they sat and waited for you to pull in behind them. People at work would undercut you, take credit for your work, just to get ahead of you. Everywhere you went you were being pushed back by people who wanted more than anything else to get ahead of you. I have tried for years to figure this out… what happened? Did I not get the memo that today the world and its rules changed? I wasn’t prepared.
The other night I heard a word that described what has happened. We were listening to the news and a black preacher seemed to misuse a word in talking about the loss of trust in the community. He used the word dis-rest. I started to laugh, but stopped and caught myself in the depth of his meaning. Perhaps what he was saying was not the word I would have used unrest. It was his word dis-rest that made me think that the unrest in the community was a DIS-EASE. Dis-ease or dis-rest is much deeper, more widespread, easily caught but much harder to eradicate. Can we vaccinate against it? I don’t think so. It is a sepsis that runs through our blood stream and infects the whole of the body. It causes us to rot from the inside. It is deadly… to the human body and the human community.
How do we know we have dis-rest? I believe it is found when we stop and take the time to look at ourselves… our actions, beliefs, motivations. If they are all about me and all I am living for is to get ahead, then I just may be suffering from dis-rest.
Is there a cure? I believe there is… It is a healthy application of a salve called “The Peace of God that passes all understanding….” At the Ordination Service when I became an Elder in the United Methodist Church… back in 1987, Dr. Robert Carter sang a piece from Saint Francis’ Prayer “Lord, Make me an Instrument of Thy Peace.” It really spoke to me that night for I have tried to pattern my ministry after that prayer. I have sought to be a peacemaker wherever I was appointed to serve. I have done a better job with that in my church work than in the alumni hall or the halls of congress. I do suffer greatly with those from a particular university, and those of a particular political party… and sometimes I respond inappropriately… as if I was suffering from dis-rest. I am sorry for that and I do promise to keep my inappropriate thoughts to myself.
There is another hymn about peace that adds this thought: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” For all of us… to help us along the way to recovery from dis-rest… let me suggest what I intend to do. Make me a copy of The Prayer of Saint Francis and pray that prayer every morning as I start my day… and to ask my wife to remind me of that prayer when I am tempted to go astray.
The guy on the road is still going to cut you off. The guy at the office still has that knife ready to stab you in the back. People all over the place are going to try to get ahead of you and the world is still going to be unfair. But how you respond to all this STUFF will be different as you seek to be a peacemaker and bring peace to this world.
Grace and Peace
Merry Christmas to all who have followed this old preacher’s wanderings over the last year. I pray that the blessings of God will be with you all as you celebrate the Christmas season and journey into the new year.
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