The people of First Covenant Church have had something of a hard week this week. Michael and Conrad Uhler were stranded in St. Louis and unable to get back to join us for our worship service, even though Michael had prepared a special song that he’d written as our offertory. Carol and Marge Beall couldn’t join us either because Carol was undergoing neck surgery on Sunday morning during the service time. And after months of health-related issues and weeks of increasingly serious struggles, Cliff Johnson went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday. For those of us who know the Lord and knew Cliff, that’s a joy because we know that he’s whole and healthy and reunited with Carol in the throneroom of God... but it’s also a hard time of mourning and loss, because Cliff has been such a powerful example to all of us for so long of what it means to be “sold out” to living for Christ in every aspect of our lives as Christians.
But I keep thinking of the timing of this passing -- that Cliff will be able to celebrate Christmas in Heaven, worshiping the Messiah far better than even Handel could ever imagine. So even in the midst of grief, I can honestly wish you and all of us -- including my brother, Cliff -- a very Merry Christmas!
In the service this week, Bill and Betty Wenzel lit the fourth Advent Candle, symbolizing peace -- reminding us that true peace comes from being in right relationship with the God and author of all real peace and living out what He’s shown us.
Maybe that’s why Michael could use Facebook to live stream playing his song for the congregation anyway -- finding peace in the midst of hardship. And maybe that’s why Carol could be giggling before she went in to a surgery that she was honestly a little scared about -- because she could pray and find peace, even in the midst of scary times.
As we talked about in our message this week, peace doesn’t just “arrive” into our lives -- it’s usually a hard-won sort of thing. And it’s rarely a passive thing, when it’s lived out rightly. In fact, the everlasting peace bought by the Prince of Peace is usually described using a lot of very strong, vibrant, active associations (such as Christ purchasing it with His blood, or that it will be accomplished through the burning zeal of God, or that it will be the result of the final battle between the forces of Heaven and the sinful forces of this world at the “great and terrible Day of the Lord”).
That’s what makes Revelation 12 such a wonderful Christmas passage. In one poetical retelling, God essentially links every crucial narrative from Genesis to the Gospels to the “end times” to show that all of them -- every story, every action, every battle -- all of that really just constitutes one clear, ongoing storyline of God actively undoing the work of Satan to mess this world up for everyone else, ending in a great war that truly does end all wars and bring about an everlasting peace.
And that’s a wonderful word picture for us to remember at Christmas...