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The peace of “panetón”

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I had only come to your door to “borrow” a couple of eggs. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and almost midnight at that. I really hadn’t meant to disrupt your family celebration, but we were desperate (for eggs on Christmas Eve?) and seeing as your children had spent much of the evening with us…. No, you really didn’t have to invite me in. All I needed was some eggs. But you were insistent and I didn’t want to offend. And so I witnessed the miracle of peace on earth.
You drew me into the circle of your family, brought an extra chair to the table, and offered me panetón – the bread that is absolutely essential to Christmas in Peru. As we broke bread together, it was no longer important that we were from different cultures, different countries, virtually different worlds. Our economic differences were no longer significant, my imperfect Spanish didn’t matter, the fact that our respective churches had fought for several hundred years was ignored. With the sharing of panetón came peace on earth.
I remember thinking this was only an illusion. I recalled your turbulent, sometimes violent relationship. I could hardly forget rushing you unconscious and only half alive to the hospital, and later searching for your husband, praying his addictions would forever cease.
But they hadn’t, in spite of all those hours of counselling we spent together. Your children still spent a great many hours in the relative peace of our house across the street. Yet here we were, breaking bread and experiencing peace on earth.
My mind could not accept it. Peru was being tormented by civil strife, and there were still mighty, nameless forces both without and within the country threatening to destroy the entire society, just as those forces threatened to destroy your family. I felt angry about the forces that drove you and guilty about those that drove me. Still, I felt peace on earth.
Perhaps I will never understand how your sharing panetón with me could cause even a moment of peace in the cosmos. Maybe my cynical mind will always fight the illusion of peace in my heart. But I remember the two of you, and I can’t help but think, this is how the shepherds felt when the angels announced peace on earth.
Could they see peace in their society? Hardly. Were their families freed from the forces of addictions? I doubt it. But, perhaps I can understand how they could have accepted in their hearts that – for a moment – all creation experienced peace on earth.
The last time I saw you, you had moved out and were hanging around some young men downtown. Your husband was taking care of the children while holding down a full-time job. Things change quickly; I can’t even guess what is happening in your lives today. All I can do is thank you for sharing your panetón with a Canadian neighbour, opening the door for a moment of peace on earth.
And by the way, thanks for the eggs!

Hardy Groening is a member at Crossroads MB Church,
Winnipeg. He and his wife Nellie served with MBMSI in Peru from 1986–1990

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