This past Sunday in Advent we lit the candle of peace. I shared with our teenagers a moment in my life when I most remember peace. It was 5:00 am early one June morning in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. I was on staff with the Methodist conference up there helping to facilitate youth programs throughout the community. That morning was the second day of the long summer saga of learning how to surf. The day before there had been a storm and the waves were mostly un-surfable except for little crumblers close to shore. I stood up and that was all I cared about. However, this morning the ocean looked as if it belonged on a calendar. The sunrise over the big waves was picturesque. My heart was pounding with excitement as I waxed down the very large, buoyant yellow board I was borrowing from my co-worker.
I zipped up my wetsuit and hit the cold ocean water. After the initial shock to my system I began to paddle up to the break. That was the first task. I had never battled waves like these. They were large and powerful. The minutes it took to get past the break felt more like hours. My arms were exhausted from the constant paddling and gripping the ever-shifting ocean floor as cold, glassy giants were rolling right over me constantly trying to pull me back to shore. As I finally passed the break I could feel the biggest sense of relief fall over me; I won, the battle was over, the conflict has ceased if only for a moment.
I sat up and resettled myself on my board and finally looked out in front of me. It is a moment that has permanently etched itself into my brain. I looked out into the most beautiful sunrise I have ever encountered in my life. As the sun raised over the horizon these giant waves were rolling right beneath me toward shore as I bobbed up and down. The water was perfectly glassy as it came through and as it was breaking behind me would let off this wispy spray that would catch glimmers of rising sunlight. In that moment, I had felt a peace I never did before. It was a peace that came out of conflict with nature. It was peace that wasn’t manufactured by human action but by divine creativity. It is a peace I continuously go back to and a peace that my heart desires for our teenagers and our world.
Our teenage friends are not immune to the world in which they are growing up. They are not ignorant but quite the opposite. We asked them what wrongs need to be righted and what peace looks like to them and we repeatedly received answers like no more war, acceptance of diversity, equal rights, and the list goes on. Our young people are passionate and smart. They are looking for a Jesus this Advent that empowers them to be agents of peace in a world that desperately needs it. May we continuously surround them with the story of Christ the redeemer, the peace bringer, the hope giver. May we, this Advent, seek to empower young people to be sent out into the world to be agents of peace and may this be the place through which they learn what that looks like, whether in message or experience. May the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding in an ocean sunrise, be with our young friends this Advent, capture their hearts, enrich their lives, and empower them to be God’s people in the world.