Sometimes peace is less about life becoming perfectly calm and more about experiencing the Holy Spirit’s presence even when life is in chaos.
Consider the story of Vedran Smailovic, the principal cellist in the Sarajevo Opera. The year was 1992 and the former Yugoslavia had erupted in ethnic strife. Sarajevo had transformed into Europe’s “capital of hell.” On May 27, as a long line of patrons waited for bread at one of the last remaining bakeries, a mortar shell landed killing 22 people instantly.
Vedran Smailovic looked out of his apartment window to see the devastation—human remains, rubble, ruin, heartbreak. He felt enraged and powerless. After all, what could Smailovic do? He was just a musician.
After a fitful night rehearsing the visions of the bread line massacre, Smailovic knew what he needed to do.
Every evening at 4 p.m., Smailovic dressed formally, as for a performance, and walked out to the site of the massacre. There he sat, on a battered campstool placed in the crater made by the shell, his cello in his hand, playing music. All around him, mortar shells and bullets would fly. Yet he would play on.
For 22 days, one day for each person killed by the mortar, Smailovic played in the same spot. His music was a symbol of peace right there in the middle of fear and chaos.
During the holiday season, we long for perfect peace. A world without war. Lives without loss. Futures without fear. And yet, we know that as long as we are on this earth, our lives will be deeply imperfect. What, then, is our hope?
Christmas reminds us that God is with us. He came to our earth, entered our strife and, like the lone cellist playing as bullets fly, provided light in the midst of great darkness. What’s more, he’s given us the Holy Spirit—a Comforter—to be that same agent of peace in our hearts no matter what rages around us.
As we wait for peace on earth, good will toward men, we turn inward to the peace we can find in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. And we ask for beauty to rise from rubble in our hearts and in our world.