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This Advent, You Can Be a Peacemaker Close to Home

The Advent season puts us in touch with our yearning for peace.
Sometimes, when I think about peace, my mind goes global. I consider large-scale and long-boiling cauldrons of conflict. When I do, I often go numb because there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to make a difference in those complex dilemmas.

So, lately, I’ve been paying closer attention to the opportunities for peacemaking which are closer by – to the conflict and misunderstanding that are part of the give-and-take, push-and-pull, of our everyday, workday and school-day lives.

Over the last month, for example, I’ve had conversations, sometimes intense conversations, with people who would like to “occupy Asheville” and with people who would like to see Asheville, N.C., occupied exclusively by people who are like them.

I’ve fielded emails from people who have tagged me as an old-style liberal, as a new-style evangelical and as an out-of-style member of an old and fading religious establishment.

I’ve dealt with adult siblings who are tearing their relationship apart over disagreements they have about how to care for aging parents.

I’ve had conversations with managers who are trying to help employees who don’t like each other to work together more effectively, and with employees who think their managers are clueless.

I have listened to the pain of spouses who don’t share each other’s hopes and fears, of parents who can’t reach and touch their children’s hearts, and of children who can’t get their parents to see and hear them for who they really are.

Too often, peace eludes us. To live in peace – and to make peace – would require us to change our ways; many of us either resist the discomfort change would cause, or we doubt that, for us, real change is possible.

We put peace into practice, and we live out our calling to be peacemakers, when we do some simple but powerful things:

â—     When we see and respect everyone as a human being and as a creation of God.

â—     When we listen until we understand.

â—     When we speak in tones and words of love.

I wonder if we could link the ways of peace with our breathing: breathe out the things that make for conflict and breathe in the things that make for peace.

Breathe in, over and over again, the glad truth that I am a child of God and so is everyone else.

And breathe out, as many times a day as it takes, fear and envy, rivalry and jealousy, the need to control and win, comparison and competition, shame and guilt.

Praying with each breath and finding peace in each moment.

GuySayles is pastor of First Baptist Church of Asheville, N.C. This column first appeared on his blog, From the Intersection.