What does this time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas do to your spirit? Are you frenetic about your unending to-do lists, gifts to buy, additional events and gatherings to attend? Are you anxious about having the perfectly decorated home, maintaining familial harmony, or hiding those darn elves every night? Or maybe you are lonely or sad about not having close friends or a loved one around. Are you distressed over a wayward child, or exhausted from caring for little ones or an ailing loved one? Or maybe you are discouraged about the consumerism that rears its head this time of year or even despairing over the state of discord, unrest, and violence in our local communities, nation, and world?
Our focus for this second week in Advent is PEACE. The Hebrew word for “peace,” shalom, is often used in reference to an appearance of calm and tranquility of individuals, groups, and nations. The Greek word eirene means “unity and accord.” I will admit, my life does not embody these definitions of peace on the outside. A typical day in our household with four young children involves constant activity, chatter, mess-making, tears, bickering, and often times, harsh tones. I also work part time in a busy pediatric emergency room, which is anything but peaceful during the winter months. Last week, my soul was filled with anxious and downcast thoughts as I looked around at my “lack of” instead of the “fullness I know I possess.” I became overwhelmed at the greed of my children for more stuff we do not need, my lack of connection to friends and neighbors in our new-ish (2+ years) community, and feeling run-down with a cold. All in all, I was without peace inside and out.
How do we reconcile our frenetic schedules, anxious hearts, in-your-face consumerism, and social unrest with the goal of possessing peace during this Advent season even if our environment or circumstances will not change?
God promised us a person that would embody peace in a mighty way.
For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
Jesus was indeed born. Born into the most humble of circumstances to the most unlikely of parents. He lived a life without sin and offered peace to all He encountered during His short life.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27 (ESV)
Is this kind of peace really available to us in our culture today? Can the peace Jesus offers truly soothe our troubled hearts and calm our worst fears? I know last week it took me focusing on the character of God, talking to myself with scripture instead of listening to my own destructive thoughts, and admitting my lack of peace to a few people close to me so they could remind me I am seen and how full my life indeed is. I am clinging to one of my favorite passages of scripture this Advent season praying my countenance would reflect the Peace of Christ even though everything around me may appear chaotic.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
The apostle Paul lived out and wrote about this kind of peace many times (Phil 4:4-13). During his earthly ministry, Jesus had peace despite His circumstances, even through the betrayal by friends and death on the Cross. Many saints from long ago and believers today have this kind of peace in circumstances we cannot begin to understand. This promised peace is not without trials, difficulty, loss or noise. It is not peace without parties, gift-giving, familial arguments or even laughter. It is peace found in a Person – the person of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God With Us. He came as a baby to Bethlehem, lived a perfect life, died a tragic death on a cross, was resurrected, appeared to many and is coming again someday to usher in His unrelenting and powerful peace to all who come to Him in faith. This peace is something we can all access. It is not just for the saints, the people who have it all together, the Bible scholar, or clergy. Peace is available to all of us who mess up daily, worry about silly stuff, yell at our kids and haven’t showered in days. Jesus Christ offers the only true and lasting peace that provides tranquility and calm in the midst of a chaotic and noisy world to each of us.
All we have to do is accept His free gift of salvation which promises perfect peace. We may forget we possess it, but once you accept Jesus as Your Savior He promises this surpassing and incomprehensible peace is always with you (in the person of Holy Spirit). Just as I lost my sense of peace last week when I took my focus off of Jesus, I am not without hope for restoration when I return my focus to Him.
Practically, I am committing this Advent season to spend at least five or more minutes each day in silence and reflection on the person of Jesus Christ. I may have to schedule or fight for these “5 minutes of peace,” whether in the morning with my coffee before my household awakens, while sitting in my car waiting for someone, or even sitting in the dark with only my Christmas tree on or a single candle illuminating the darkness. However, I know if I don’t ensure planned silence and focused time in God’s word and on His Son, I will lose my peace and my mind this holiday season. My soul is hungry for this promised peace.
Will you join me this week? Sitting quietly for five minutes each day, with no music or earbuds in, no device within reach. Maybe even sitting (not sleeping) in a darkened room with one light source such as a lamp or candle or Christmas tree. Turn your focus to the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World, Emmanuel. He longs for us to come to Him, to seek Him, to surrender to Him. And He has promised us Peace which surpasses all understanding my dear friend.
Worship Song: Silent Night – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pEndgvJe2s