Felize Navidad everyone! I'm choosing to ignore that crazy annoying version of that song that's played on the radio incessantly this time of year, which I'm sure you've all heard enough of. I love Christmas music, but not that one. But anyways, to the point Bryce! So many words... all the time!
It's interesting... When I signed up for the Peace Corps, I didn't really think about the title of the organization. I knew that I wanted travel, help people, and live in a new culture, but I never thought of the impacts of what doing these things might have in terms of conflict, or the lack of it. My host-father for this week asked me if I had a gun with me, and it was the first time I really put any thought into the fact that I came to Paraguay working for the PEACE Corps... not the Marine Corps, which I definitely explained to him. "Um, che amba'apohina Cuerpo de PAZndi!" Much laughter ensued.
But what is Peace? And where does it come from? Is it even something that can be obtained? Is it permanent? I have a lot of questions about words lately. It's as if learning two other languages has forced me to reconsider the words I've used so often in my own native tongue. "Wait... Spoon? We call this a spoon? That's SO WEIRD. Weird? WEIRD? THAT'S WEIRD." Hahaha, such is the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. Don't even get me started on trying to teach people English. Gosh, what a disaster. But anyways... Bryce, you're doing it again. STOP.
So the word PEACE, as it is professionally and seasonally appropriate, is what I am going to talk about in my post today. My pastor at my home church in Lansing, Don Denyes, gave a Christmas sermon on December 26th of last year on peace (which I downloaded before I left Michigan. How handy are MP3 files, eh?). Let me tell you, there could not have been a better time for me to listen to this sermon than this week--my first official few days as a Peace Corps Volunteer in my community. It hasn't been easy and I've been working hard to pursue a place of peace in my life ever since I got here. Paraguayans call it Tranquilo. I heard this all the time in training... "Tranquilo, Bryce! Tranquilo!" Meaning "Relax. Seriously, dude, chill out."
I think that Pastor Denyes did an excellent job of laying it all out. So here are my notes from the sermon:
-What is Peace?
-Peace is not just the absence of conflict.
-From the prayer mentioned in Numbers 6:
1. Completeness, wholeness, abundance of life
2. Traquility of heart (The inside)
3. Harmony with each other (The outside)
-What Peace did Christ come to bring?:
-The word "Peace" appears in the Christmas account of Luke only 3 times:
1. Guide us on the Path of Peace (Luke 1:79, Zachariah's song)
-Walk in peace for all of our lives, both externally and internally
2. Peace with God / Divine Peace (Luke 2:14, the Angels to the Shepherds)
-We must turn from sin and trust in God (John 16:33)
-Given to those to whom He has given His favor/been justified by faith (Romans 5:1)
3. Peace in Death (Luke 2:29, Simian's prayer to God)
-Peace only comes to those who know Christ
-Jesus defeated death on the cross and the Resurrection
-We can have peace in facing the last enemy called Death because Christ was victorious over death.
Now, I didn't come all the way to South America to beat Paraguayans over the head with the Bible. While my faith is an enormous part of my life wherever I am, I fully understand that the US government is not paying me to win converts to Protestant Christianity. Sharing my faith is something that happens naturally for me within my preestablished relationships, and not something I stand on a corner and scream at the top of my lungs about. Listening to this sermon forced me to think about how all this fits into my current personal state within my Peace Corps service.
I'm far away from family for Christmas this year, which eats me alive when I think about it. Even with that minor freak-out incident before dinner on Christmas last year, I love my family and the sometimes-chaos that being in one house with all those people can cause. ;) As a fan of Christmas trees, Christmas music, and all of the nonsense at the mall when I'm shopping on Christmas Eve (seriously, the people-watching is hysterical), it's been a challenge for me to deal with the separation anxiety that Paraguay has caused me during this time of year. WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO PEPPERMINT MOCHAS?! I WANT MY PEPPERMINT MOCHA! ahem... I'm over it. Obviously I'm struggling to find some peace (and some coffee).
But that's just the thing... The peace never left. I have that personal relationship with Christ that gives me access to His eternal peace. I have peace in the fact that even if I am alone and isolated for Christmas, I'm never separated from God--and really, He's all that matters. Sometimes life gets moving too fast (or too slow, in my case), that it's easy to lose touch with reality. We celebrate Christmas because it gives us something more valuable than anything else in this world: Christ came to give us peace with God in the form of forgiveness of sin. Peace is temporary without repentence.
I'm going to remember that this year. The company of family and friends, the gift giving, coffee cake, and yes--peppermint mochas from Starbucks, are all just cultural traditions that are bonuses to the real message of the holiday. I can go without those bonuses for this year. ;) May you all have peace with each other -- and more importantly -- Peace with God this Christmas season. Merry Christmas everyone!