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Peace & Pieces - December 7, 2023

As a healthcare chaplain, I sat at my patients’ bedsides and offered words and prayers of comfort. Frequently, I would set my phone on the bedside table and hit play on my selection of hymns and classical harmonies. Music has a way to reach places in the soul that even spoken prayers can’t always do.

A song that always seemed to help my patients relax is called “Peace Before Us.” It’s a simple tune with just a few repetitive phrases. The first verse goes:

Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet, peace within us,

peace over us, let all around us be peace.

Three additional verses follow the same pattern substituting love, then light, then Christ for peace. The effect is very soothing.

“A state of tranquility,” is one dictionary definition for the word peace. When I played “Peace Before Us” for my patients, I hoped they would enter a state of tranquility. Other definitions are “an absence of war or conflict,” and “harmony in personal relations.”

We will light the second candle on our Advent wreath on Sunday. This candle symbolizes peace. We seek peace as defined in the paragraph above, and we also embrace a special kind of peace, the peace that only Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, can give. When this peace enters our hearts and spirits, we call it “the peace that passes understanding.”

In every celebration of Holy Eucharist, the priest faces the congregation and says: “The peace of the Lord be always with you.” The people reply: “And also with you.” Then we offer each other words or signs of peace. There is such joy when we share the peace at Incarnation! This is a true gift from God.

Let us remember, however, that the peace we share grows directly out of the forgiveness of sin. Before we pass the peace, we have confessed our sins against God and our neighbor. As your priest, I have the great privilege, which I do not take lightly, to offer absolution on behalf of the church. We are forgiven! Now we feel lighter in body and spirit! We want to share our newfound freedom with each other and with the world beyond our doors. Guilt, despair, shame are removed. The peace that passes understanding is now ours.

Advent is a special time to devote ourselves to keeping that peace in our heart – so we can give it away to those who long for it.

Pastor Lori+


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