Seward United Methodist Church
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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Christmas Eve Meditation 2015

Christmas Eve Candlelight
            At Christmas time, we hear the words of the angelic greeting: “Peace on earth; goodwill to men.” 
            Are we ever going to know peace in our world? Some people hope so. Some hold onto the hope that we will someday move beyond our hatred and wars and learn to co-exist. But with each passing year, that hope, to me, gets dimmer and dimmer. 
            In one way or another, we’ve seen our nation involved in almost 15 straight years of war. And that’s to say nothing of all the other conflict around the globe. How can we have peace in a world where more than 130 Parisians are killed in a single day of mindless terrorism? How can we have peace in a world where we’ve become so accustomed to mass shootings that we don’t even act surprised by them anymore? 
            We just don’t seem to be able to get along anymore. Maybe we never could. Every discussion of politics becomes an argument. People get into fights over football games. We have less patience and more divorces, shorter tempers, and we hold onto our grievances longer and longer. 
            Is God’s promise of peace just a bunch of empty words? 
            I don’t think so. But this much I know: We cannot have peace in our world until we have peace in our hearts. 
            You probably noticed that in the dramatic readings the question, “Who am I?” was repeated over and over. How can we have peace in our hearts if we don’t even really know who we are? 
            In the 19th century, there was a French artist named Paul Gauguin. He was born in Paris, but eventually settled in Tahiti. Why not? His last great work was a large painting depicting life in Tahiti. On the left side were images of birth and childhood. In the middle were images of adulthood. And on the right were images of old age and impending death. In the corner, he wrote: “D’ou venons-nous? Qui sommes nous? Ou allons-nous?” In case it’s been a while since you took high school French, it reads: Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? 
            How can we have peace in our hearts if we aren’t able to answer the big questions of life? Where do we come from? Are we a cosmic accident, the chance occurrence of billions of years of evolution? Or are we a beloved creation of God? Who are we? Are we nothing more than funny animals that walk and talk? Or are we made in the image of God? Where are we going? Do our lives just end in an empty oblivion called death, or is there more than just this too-short life? 
            Tragically, Gauguin may not have known the answers to those questions himself. He attempted suicide shortly after he finished that work. He lived a few more years before dying. A bottle of opium by his bedside led some to think he was poisoned and others to think he had finally taken his own life. 
            Do you know who you are? Do you know where you came from? Do you have a hope for where you are going? If the answer is no, then peace might be difficult to find.
            For me, peace came when I met Jesus. Before I met Jesus, I had a lot of anger. I did not have a sense of direction or purpose for my life. I didn’t know who I was or what to do with my life. Christ changed all that. He gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of identity. He gave me peace.
            I can’t lie to you and say that I don’t still have anxiety in my life. I worry about money. I worry about the future. I worry that I’m not doing a good job as a parent or as a pastor. But the way I see it, those anxieties are out here, around me. They’re not in my heart; they’re not in the core of my being. In the center of my being, I have a sense of peace. I know I am a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I know where I came from, and I know where I’m going. And whatever happens, I trust that I will come through it because I am not alone. God is with me. And that’s enough. 
            I hope that you have peace in your heart this Christmas. The world can’t give you peace. Other people can’t give you peace. You can’t even give it to yourself. But Jesus can give it to you. Just as he promised. 

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