And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all.' (Luke 2:13-14)
One morning long ago I was out for a morning run shortly after dawn. I made my way through the quiet streets of Lancaster, PA, and to some nearby ball fields for a loop around the perimeter. Out on the grass there was a low-lying fog that rose just above my knees and made the footing a little tricky. It wasn't so thick I couldn't see the ground, but I had to focus more closely.
I was all alone in the back corner of the field when I came upon a spot - literally a spot about two feet in diameter - where there was no fog. In this one little place I could clearly see the green grass at my feet. It was strange, so I stopped and stood in this fogless circle and tried to figure out why it was right there. As I stood there in that strange spot, looking out over the fields covered in wispy white, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of calm and peace like I had never felt before. The beauty, the strangeness, the spirit of that moment filled me with what the Bible calls, "a peace beyond understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
It only lasted a few seconds, fifteen at most. After all, I had a run to finish and class to get to and papers to write and I don't remember what else. It was a busy time. But in that brief moment I received the gift of peace the angels promised, a brief moment in time I return to in my thoughts often.
In this second week of Advent, we have lit the candle of peace and asked where do we find peace in the world today. As I reflected on that question, I thought of the words of Henry Longfellow and the carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Longfellow wrote these words in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, just a few years after his wife died and while nursing his son Charley back to health after Charley was wounded in the war. Where did Longfellow find peace in all of life's madness? It came to him in the bells of Christmas.
"Yet pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead, nor does God sleep.
the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to all.'"
May you find peace as we journey through this Advent season and, as it says on our Peace Pole in our Peace Garden, may peace prevail on earth.