The Lafayette Baptist Church Christmas Cantata in 1989 is one I will never forget as long as I live. During the program several men in the choir and congregation looked at their pagers, immediately stood up, and left the building. Their wives and children were crying and the rest of the congregation was stunned.
In a few short days we would all learn why they were summoned. On the night of December 20, 1989, Operation Acid Gambit, a Delta Force operation to rescue hostage Kurt Muse, was the opening salvo of Operation Just Cause that would eventually remove Manuel Noriega from power in Panama.
The operation lasted from December 20, 1989 until January 31, 1990. The men from our church walked out of the sanctuary and left immediately to go to war. Their families were home trying to celebrate Christmas as best they could, while their husbands and fathers were fighting a war.
One of the men was seriously injured in a helicopter crash during the hight of the fighting. So his condition was an additional weight on the minds of his family and those of us who knew him. The entire mood of the season was tense that year.
Read – Matthew 2:1-16
In 1966 Simon & Garfunkel released a Christmas song entitled “Seven O’Clock News/Silent Night”. The concept of the song is simple, Simon & Garfunkel sing a very simple and beautiful version of Silent Night, at the same time a newscaster reads a selection of news from the Summer of 1966.
The song is constructed with the simple arpeggio of the piano coming through the left channel, the newscaster coming through the right channel, and the singing voices in the middle.
As the song plays the newscast gets louder and louder and louder, competing with the music. By the end the Simon & Garfunkel seems to be singing at the top of their lungs. As if by some miracle they can out sing the chaos of the news.
Simon & Garfunkel perfectly captured the dissonance of singing a song about peace in the midst of a turbulent decade, and men I knew were sent to war at Christmas. Even Jesus, the very Jesus we celebrate this season, was exiled to Egypt to avoid a mass genocide. So much for sleeping in heavenly peace much less peace on Earth.
But what if Jesus being the Prince of Peace isn’t really about peace in the way it seems. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
How do we find peace this season in the midst of a pandemic and a political climate that seems to have divided us beyond any hope of reconciliation? We need to imitate Mary and Joseph. Once again the lineage of Abraham learned to trust God and obey and through that obedience they experienced peace.
Mary and Joseph experienced exactly what Jesus talked about: “I do not give to you as the world gives.” They were terrified of their new born son being murdered, they were traveling to a foreign country to live in exile, their lives were once again being turned upside down.
This “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t about circumstantial peace, it is a spiritual peace. As we enter into this week may we begin to see peace not as the absence of conflict, but instead as a result of our obedience.
Sing – Silent Night
Almighty God, grant us in equal measure; Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Hope in a Savior, Peace in our world, Joy in our hearts, and Love for our fellow man. In the name of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate this Advent season, Amen.