I can’t help but begin each post referencing this culturally and politically intense 2017 we’ve had. In fairness, all the years have their share of drama and outright moments of shock but this year has been quite eventful.
A controversial President, a meddling Russia, nuclear-flexing North Korea, white supremacists marching, a shocking and yet not shocking number of sexual abuse scandals from Hollywood to Washington to all places reaching our friends and loved ones who have courageously said, “Me too.” This week, we’ll be wrapping our heads around the tax bill, what will prove to be good for our country, what will impact negatively. There has been so much more that I have written and keep deleting to not get off-topic and to attempt to be politically neutral here, but you get the idea, this year has been challenging.
Then there’s you and me. We have our own issues, our own stress points, our own headaches and heartbreaks. We have practical challenges ranging from career to finances to family to health to relationships to whatever else keeps you up at night. Whether it be trivial or dire, 2017 probably brought you a lot of that as well.
We get to Advent and if you are a church-going type, its that time of year when we hear about Jesus coming near, and about joy, and hope and peace. Indeed, this is the true hope of Christmas, but on Monday morning, we have trouble connecting them with the everyday, frantic life? Is Advent the time of year we just stuff all the pain and clutter somewhere and call that Christmas?
Today, I sat down to write a to-do list in different columns on a half-sheet of paper. For some odd reason I thought I didn’t really have that much compared to last week. And so I found myself writing big and legibly. Soon, I found myself thinking of tasks, needed ones, that had to be finished. I looked at my Reminders on my iPhone and found more. I folded up the paper and the moment I put it away, I remembered more and brought it back out. It was discouraging when I reached the bottom of the half-sheet and was writing small, fast, and illegibly. And then the worst part – I finally turned the paper over. I couldn’t help but feel my December was over, and it was still only the 3rd!
I need Advent.
I need to confront what threatens my peace.
I need to prepare my heart for the celebration of the coming Messiah. I need to ready my soul for the story about God coming near.
If I don’t, I’ll miss out on the beauty, the joy and the meaning.
Maybe you need it too.
Some will tell you that you need a break from social media. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.
Some will tell you not to take things so seriously. Though it feels trite, perhaps.
Some will tell you that you need to spend more time meditating in silence. You probably do, but there’s much more.
But that’s not all there is when it comes to preparing the heart for the coming of Jesus. We don’t just need a break, we really need to receive what God is inviting us too and follow.
At my church, Grace Chapel, our Advent Christmas series is entitled, “Peace Be With Us.” That resonates with me. Of course, I mean Jesus’ peace and not the world’s understanding of peace. The distinction is the world’s vision of peace is to choose not to harm one another, to lay down our many forms of weapons and to pursue unity. This is great, and most days I’d be content with just that, but it seems that Jesus is offering even more with the proclamation of His coming.
The Christian vision of peace is that there is no more suffering, no more violence, no more heartbreak, because all evil has been confronted and defeated on the cross. Death, sin, pain will ultimately be vanquished. This is the “shalom” that Jesus talks about and directs His followers towards.
In our everyday lives, this confronts our anxieties, our pain and our anger with a peace that promises to provide, that heals, and that offers removes our fear and points us toward joy. This is the presence of Jesus in our lives, and often we miss just how near He really is, how he suffers with us, and as a result, miss out in the peace He offers.
I promise this whole post is not a long commercial for our series but the truth is, I really like our teaching. For me there isn’t a single series that I wouldn’t want to journal or blog about it. (I should be clear in saying I’m on our teaching team, and so that makes me one of the cooks in the kitchen so to speak. But the Lord really has filled my soul with what comes out of our kitchen).
For Advent, as part of my preparation for Christmas, I am asking God to deepen my understanding of peace, to help me as I live in 2017 and in a few short weeks, the new year. I’m praying for the fortitude as we process and respond to our cultural events. To confront what is needed, to reconcile when possible and to be a peace-maker in such divided times. I’m also praying that I will not allow the curve balls and heartbreaks of life to unhinge me but to respond to all that God is inviting us to.
What are you hoping for this Advent as you prepare for Christmas? May it be than getting the to-do list done, may it more than getting the presents wrapped, may it be more than feeling more optimistic towards our divided times.
May you have a beautiful Advent, may it be meaningful and joyful in such times.
Though a little late, I’m preparing a list of Advent devotionals/readings. If you love one, let me know.