A Time for Peace (or 365,250)

(2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8) J G White
2nd Sunday of Advent, Dec 10, 2017, UBC Digby

It’s the Second Sunday of Advent, and we are still reading about the second coming of the Messiah.  Second Peter gives us more of the typical wisdom and warnings of apocalyptic literature.  

I believe that, despite the destruction we notice in Revelation, or Daniel, or 2 Peter, the end message of all the second coming teaching is life and peace.  Peace among all men and women.  Peace between humans and the rest of creation.  Peace between God and human souls.  The violent kingdoms of human history are overcome by the Kingdom of the Heavens, where there is no violence, no death, no pain nor suffering.

Back in the 1840s, when this Baptist congregation was a newly planted church in Digby, way down in the USA a war was waging with Mexico over the Texas territory, and beyond.  In Massachusetts, Unitarian Minister Edmund Sears was weighed down heavily with the situation.  He believed that to kill in war was a grievous a sin as murder.  He composed a Christmas poem that looked for a real hope of peace in his warring world.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angels’ strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong.
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
It’s ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

We sang some verses of ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’ in our carol sing today.  It celebrates that night the angels sang, and the future time foretold.  We sing of the ‘ancient splendors’ of peace. Indeed, deep peace must be a splendid thing.  Christmas is a time to love, and Christmas is a time to seek peace.

This carol has become ‘timeless,’ it has stood the test of time.  And it is time that is on my heart again this week. Time rolls along, and sometimes seems the same.  Going along, getting faster a bit as the years go by, maybe.  

But time can also be special.  Those special moments when time is, well, different.  Time stands still, we sometimes say.  Time is sacred.  Time become timeless.

We know what these special moments are like.  So perhaps we can understand those famed phrases of Peter.  With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (2 P 3:8)  

I almost gave this sermon a six figure title: 365,250.  With God 24 hours is like 365,250 days, and 365,250 days is like 24 hours.  

In our lives we expect that special kind of time to happen in December, Christmastime.  All the stories and tales that keep being told and written about Christmas – the cartoons, movies, comics, TV shows, poems, songs – all of them: retelling magical, poignant moments that are timeless.  Even with our business, the hustle and bustle, certain events, special stories, catch our hearts, and Holiness is there. Even when we are skeptical, God graciously breaks through.

I likely told you the story before of the time we went to The Living Christmas Tree in Moncton.  What a big, gigantic production this is, at Moncton Wesleyan Church each year.  We were to join Sharon’s older daughter and son-in-law, who lived up there at the time, for this spectacular musical drama.

On the night for which we had tickets, it was a tremendous snowstorm.  But we set out, from Windsor, with Sharon’s other daughter in the car, to Moncton. The weather was so poor, we got to the church in Moncton just in time for the intermission, and the second half.  And we were driving all the way back home to Windsor after!

Once we finally got there, I was, of course, still a bit jaded about this ‘mega church’ and their very professional show, The Living Christmas Tree – with lights and special effects, professional singers and actors, amazing sets and staging – even live animals.  Over. The. Top.

Of course, in the second half, Joseph and Mary are there, and they have a baby.  I know the story.  The crowd of glitzy angels and authentic-looking shepherds are singing some spectacular song as magnificent Magi parade down the side aisles – singing perfectly, of course – when Mary and Joseph come forward on the stage.  
And then it happens.
The actor, Joseph, lifts up a baby.  
The Baby.
A real, human baby.  
Time stopped.
I wept.  I couldn’t help myself. And I almost never cry.

Last night here in town I had a twinge of that again, I must confess, while Dr. Neil Pothier, as the Innkeeper, held a plastic doll in a little comedic drama at Digby Wesleyan.  

We look for these timeless moments.  We get into December with anticipation, expectation, hope.  And even when we are hurried, or cynical, or stressed, or bored with it all – time can and will stand still.  Holiness appears again.

Deep peace breaks into our time.  Serenity sneaks in.  Love cracks the hardened heart.  And it’s not just in music and storytelling that this happens.  It is in real life.

I remember… I remember a very simple moment.  A bunch of us were Christmas caroling around our community.  A dozen of us in a few cars, going to a few homes.  We got to Mr. & Mrs. Boyd’s place. In his 80s,  Mr. was always at Sunday service, in the local Men’s Choir, and on our church committees too.  Mrs. B was not getting out as much anymore – few of us realized how hard the beginnings of her dementia was for their life at home.  

We started singing a few carols.  Mr. and Mrs. joined in.  Then I saw it.  For a few of the carollers in their 30s, sacredness arrived. They wept as they tried to keep singing.  

We keep singing carols.  Advent is a celebration.  A celebration of special time.  Of holy peace that breaks into the violence of the world, and into the hum-drum bah- humbug of it all.  The first Advent – Jesus getting born – was timeless.  The second Advent – Jesus coming back gloriously – is timeless too.  The fiery preaching of John the Baptizer, and the apocalyptic writing of Apostle Peter were understood by the people of old who were oppressed, looking for hope, troubled by world events back then. There can be peace.  There will be peace.
Peace among men and women.
Peace with all creation.
Peace with God.
In Advent we celebrate the mysterious and perfect Time for Peace.
I believe in it.

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