This is the season of peace.
For this nation, the season has its roots deep in the Christian story of Christmas, but that desire for peace is not a uniquely Christian thing. Ending a year, perhaps we’d all like to restore peace. Beginning a new year, perhaps we’d all like to start as friends.
The mere absence of harsh words and violence is not peace. Neither, from a different perspective, is the absence of the noise and chaos often associated with the hectic elements of the holiday season.
Many a parent of young children may be inclined to disagree with me after a hectic Christmas morning, and many a New Year’s Eve party host may beg to differ with me on January 1st. Still, I’ll insist that peace is more than the aftermath of these boisterous times every bit as much as it is more than not being at war.
Peace is the deep conviction that, despite surface tensions, despite even great waves of conflict or frenzied celebration, all is well.
I often experience this kind of peace on Christmas Eve, after the children and grandchildren have gone off to bed, visions of plush toys and video games dancing in their heads. I flip the room lights off. The Christmas tree glows warmly. The flames in the fireplace (real or virtual) flicker gently.
I turn on Mannheim Steamroller’s Silent Night. And I sit in that gentle quiet.
Some Christmas Eves, this moment of stillness has been sad. For every sorrow, however, I also have touched joy.
What I see in the warm, gentle light of these quiet moments flows from the cellar of my soul. The fortifying liquid gives warmth to the moment, whatever the emotion with which it is tinged. For every separation, there is the anticipation or at least the hope of reunion or reconciliation. And when I dare to hope, the casks in that cellar pour forth even more freely, granting me access to more of the cherished moments that affirm the value of what I have had, now have, and may yet find in this life.
As I approach the end of my sixth decade, I’ve come to believe that “happiness” in the modern sense is overrated. It is a giddy, temporary, fun but ultimately insubstantial emotion. It is pleasant, like vin nouveau, but hardly on a plane with a fine Cabernet.
Peace, real peace, is rich, full-bodied, with earthy tones of oak and soil and sun, with a little bite, a smooth finish and a lingering sense of wonder. It must be given time to mature in that deep and innermost cellar. When it is opened, it must be allowed to breath before its bouquet is breathed in, before its complex of feelings is sipped and savored.
Because peace is, at its core, a product of a life well-lived. It is not fermented in a moment; it cannot be rushed. It is not achieved by the controlled mixing of specified ingredients; it’s cask is filled with each moment that is well-lived, each fruit that is crushed not in haste but in love, in compassion, in kindness.
And there is nothing like it.
Wishing you a cellar full of peace to be savored all the days of your life.