Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peace On Earth

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on Earth," I said
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men."

I'll be blunt: this has been me. 

Christmas has been missing for me this year. I'm sitting here, writing this by the light of our Christmas tree, which part of me, somewhere, knows is one of my favorite lights in the whole world...but it's missing. Something is missing.

I haven't listened to nearly enough Christmas music this year (perhaps that's part of the problem?), but this song has been in my head this morning, and it's made me finally realize what is missing. 

Peace. Peace is missing. 

As I write that, something about the great and simple truth of it just makes me want to burst into tears. And then I hold back and don't let myself, because that would be disrupting any peace I do have...wouldn't it?

The thing is, I don't think I'm missing peace the way that most people miss it at Christmastime. My shopping has been totally under control. I haven't spent too much, or stressed too much, or been caught up in crowds and lines and this sale and that deal. I've cut myself slack in a lot of ways (digital Christmas cards, anyone?) and haven't pushed myself unrealistically. I've got plenty keeping me busy, but don't necessarily feel hustled or bustled. 

No, the peace that I'm looking for is something deeper than that, something more than a quiet night at home with "It's a Wonderful Life" can provide. 

I've been looking for peace from anxiety. Peace from bad news. Peace from bad people. Peace from intrusive thoughts. Peace from this horrible feeling that the world is a scary place and oh my gosh I have to raise children here. 

"'There is no peace on Earth,' I said."

I know that sounds depressing, and maybe even a little dramatic. But it's what I'm facing and feeling right now. 

And I want to be done with it. 

I don't want this to be the forgotten Christmas -- the year that I just went through the motions without the feelings, the year that I listened to hardly any Christmas music, the year that I never baked cookies, the year that I sat in the glow of a Christmas tree and didn't feel my heart swell. 

Is it even possible, at this point -- two days before Christmas -- to fix it? Well, I'm going to try.

I just read this article and have a thought or two that I'd love to share.

I love the idea of focusing on the baby in the manger. That is a peaceful moment. That baby would grow up to do great things, and to experience terrible things. His life would be full of joy, but also full of sorrow. He would have friends and know love, but he would also feel more alone than any of us can possibly imagine. Those things are scary. They are stressful. They reflect evil in the world that just shouldn't be there.

But, as the article says, we can and should "not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or in yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world -- when all of heaven rejoiced with the message 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.'"

It's realizing that this manger scene was a moment of peace in a world full of turmoil that helps me to realize something else: there is peace on Earth. Maybe not all-encompassing, and maybe not all the time, but it's there. Peace exists. Peaceful moments happen. They happen when we feel love -- love for others, love for God, and God's love for us. And no matter what else is going on in our lives, whatever sadness or tragedy or trial or worry we may experience, we can feel that love.

And the other thing that hit me from this article was the scripture quoted at the end: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." --John 14:27

"Not as the world giveth...." What kind of peace does the world give? Sometimes, I think that that is the peace I mistakenly look for. The world could, in an ideal situation, give us outer peace. We could technically avoid wars and crime and terrorism. We try to punish bad people and prevent bad things from happening. The world does its very best to create that peace, and I long for it. I wish the world was safe, and happy, and peaceful.

But, although Christ could create peace in that way, if He wanted's not the kind of peace He's talking about. He's not talking about making the problems and the bad things of the world go away. He's talking about having peace even with those problems among us. He's talking about having faith in God's plan and in God's timing. Christ's peace exists within us, and it can be there no matter what.

So in my search for peace this Christmas, I want to focus on the things I know that can bring me peace, no matter what.

I know that I am loved.
I know that I am here for a purpose.
I know that I can do hard things, with help.
I know that every problem, every worry, every struggle, will work out in the end -- with effort, with repentance, and with faith.
I know that my Savior lives, and that He showed me the way to live.
I know that I can find peace on Earth.

I hope that you all have an amazing Christmas. I hope that you're loving the lights and the treats and the songs and the movies. I hope that you give and get the best presents ever. And I hope that peace finds its way into your heart, and into mine.

Merry Christmas!

Then pealed the bells, more loud and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on Earth, good will to men."