Where is the peace on earth?

All the ho ho ho-ing and season’s greetings, Christmas carols, crowded malls and grocery stores, packed restaurants and TV commercials promised happiness and warm fuzzy feelings, a Christmas of unsullied glee. Even the angel’s song, quoted in Luke, promised peace on earth. We had so much to look forward to as we decorated trees and hung wreaths, baked cookies and wrapped gifts. So what happened? Where is all the peace on earth?

Jeremy singing carols
Jeremy singing carols

Peace tree

Christmas morning
Christmas morning

 

Why do we still have a world in which two police officers are murdered as they sit in their squad car? What do we say to their children when they open the last gifts they will ever receive from their father?

What about the families of the school children slaughtered in Pakistan to make a political statement?

The ones beheaded by crazed Isis militants for refusing to deny Jesus, the one whose birth was meant to bring peace?

The ones who have lost a child or spouse to disease or accident?

The ones whose children died too young, live with grave disabilities, or never lived at all?

The one who doesn’t even have someone to grieve?

The one whose family has been desecrated by joblessness, abuse, unfaithfulness or addiction?

What do we do with all the broken pieces of our world, and our lives?

 

cross
cross

manger scene

 

I can only see the manger as the portal to joy if I see the empty cross standing high above.

The child who began with a bed of straw became the man who ended with a crown of thorns.

It is a strange, seemingly twisted reality:  He died to conquer the darkness.

He rose as king, opening the door for each of us to pass through the valley of the shadow of death into marvelous light.

 

Ft Jefferson, Dry Tortugas
Ft Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

My earthly heart still feels pain, and my earthly eyes still see darkness,

but my heart knows the wonder of the manger.

Beyond the stable, beyond the hills of Judea, and beyond that cross

is Life, reaching for you, for me,

to guide us through the portal.

The manger entrance to eternity.

 

Pursuing the past, finding the future

Pursuing the past, finding the future

We drove southeast from Zürich toward the birthplace of Maria Tschanen Zimmerman, my great-grandmother. I’d hoped to find family tombstones, especially for her sister, Anna. My grandmother’s only expressed wish, unfulfilled, had been to visit Switzerland. After my mother’s death this year, I felt the need to link back to her grandmother’s land, especially since it is my middle daughter’s home, and the birthplace of two of my grandchildren.

By the time we reached Wohlen bei Bern, early winter darkness forced us to pull out flashlights. We stomped around the graveyard at Die Pfarrkirche, but all we found were fairly recent graves.

church at Wohlen bei Bern
church at Wohlen bei Bern

Inside the church, the boys and I were fascinated with the manger scene, loaded with woolly sheep.

Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland
Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland

We read that the church was founded in 1320.

Wohlen bei Bern Die Pfarrkirche
inside church looking toward the back
Ten Commandments from 1681
Ten Commandments from 1681

So why no old gravestones, the kind my older brother and his wife found throughout the U.S. to establish our family tree on our father’s side?

In a country rich with history, even pre-dating the Romans, it didn’t make sense.

After thoroughly covering every part of the cemetery, I stopped to listen to my daughter explain that, according to Swiss law, any graves over 100 years old are removed to make space for new ones. (No, we don’t know what happens to them.)

Finally, we chose a young cinnamon rose-bush near some Zimmerman and Tschanen graves to disperse a portion of Mom’s ashes. (Mom had been an avid gardener.)

Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard
Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard

Tracey and the boys sang “I Am His Child,” which Jeremy and Kyle had sung to Mom on their last visit in April – and to which she had responded with deep emotion and tears. (They also sang it at the reception after her Requiem.)

For days I was frustrated that I had not been able to find my ancestors’ tombs.

Yesterday, understanding dawned, and I sighed in relief.

empty manger
empty manger

Just like the empty manger, the empty cross, and the empty tomb where they had laid the body of Jesus, someday all our tombs will be empty.
 
The only thing that really matters is where we go from there.

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence.” I John 5:13-14

 

sunrise over Schindellegi
sunrise over Schindellegi, Switzerland

Below is a partial clip of Jeremy and Kyle singing “I Am His Child” at the reception.