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Posts from the ‘Peace’ Category

Advent: Whispers of Peace

  

As I sat down this morning to write about Advent, a time to prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ, the phone rang. It was the school secretary calling to ask me to pick up my daughter. She apparently was ill. She was fine this morning at home, bubbling around after having a waffle for breakfast, playful even.
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The Heart of Advent

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The most basic definition of advent is a coming into being. In preparing for Christmas this year, I wonder how do we “…come into being…” this Advent? How do we rekindle our focus on the greatest advent the world has seen, that which culminated in the birth of the Son of God? Drawing near to God is crucial, but how do we draw near to God during this time of wonder? All the trappings of Christmas are tradition and no doubt a welcome enjoyment. But how do we see beyond the bustling with tinsel, lights, cookies and presents?

In the Christmas story, Mary experienced a “coming into being,” an advent of her own. “Do not be afraid,” the angel declared Christ’s coming birth to his young mother. An encounter of the simple with the divine and the whole world would be changed forever. What faith Mary had answering the angel, “Let it be as you say. I am a bond-servant of the LORD.” A bond-servant. Not just a servant, but one who sells themself into servitude. She had the freedom to choose. Yet, she chose to accept the circumstances laid before her. The public scorn would have been tremendous for a young pregnant Jewish bride. The cost so great, she likely would lose her husband in the process. Her life would be changed forever. None of that mattered. She took the angel’s words to heart, believing she needn’t fear and that she was “…most highly favored…” by God himself.

Mary offered herself to be a dwelling for the Christ child; in the womb, through infancy, toddlerhood, boyhood, and manhood. She even followed him to his death on the cross. She had to have known the prophecies about Israel’s Messiah King, perhaps even knowing that one day he would ultimately pay the greatest price for his people. Yet, she took on the role of the mother of the Christ child with wonder in her eyes. We’re told she pondered these things in her heart. Mary willingly became a dwelling for the King of Kings, despite any pain she might endure. In doing so, she was blessed to experience the closeness of a relationship with the divine.

At the crux of coming into being this Advent is a willingness to be a dwelling for God. Like Mary, to experience being with him, not doing for him. Come near to me and I’ll draw near to you, he tells us. Emmanuel – Christ with us. A revolutionary concept today, just as much as it was two thousand years ago. All the power of the divine rests in Christ. Christ’s birth should be celebrated, not because it gives us the opportunity for all kinds of Christmas revelry. It should be celebrated with joy and thanksgiving, because it turned the whole created world upside down with an offer of divine proportion. The God of the universe extended an open invitation for every man, woman and child to enter into a living and life-altering relationship with him.

The heart of Christmas isn’t merrymaking, it is life itself. And that life is in Christ. “I am the way, the truth and the life. I’ve come to give them life and life to the fullest,” he tells us. “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy burdened. Come to me and I shall give you rest.” The traditions of Christmas aren’t sufficient balm for the ache of living in a world fraught with great difficulty and pain. Who but God himself could meet us in our darkest moments, bringing us healing tenderness, strength and comfort? For the orphans hidden deep in third world squalor; for those facing down a terrifying sickness in a loved one; for those broken with guilt over what they’ve done; and for the loneliest of the lonely – there is one who can meet you where you are, one who desires to know you. As the angel declared, he was born “…for you…” on Christmas day.

Come near to him and delight in the divine. Allow him to dwell in your heart and you will experience his transforming, life-giving power. Come experience his rest in the midst of the worst turmoil this world can throw at you. His peace is real and never-ending. The greatest present ever given – Emmanuel – God with us. Walking with us, carrying us, filling us with the hope that can only come from the divine. Come near and experience him this holiday season. Come to the manger, he’s waiting.

Photo by Maija/KIIW – DeviantArt

The Question

Three years. Three years they had to walk alongside him, to laugh with him, to eat with him, to learn from him and be changed by him. The disciples of Jesus had three years of close contact with the God who created them, healed them and ministered to them and with them. They had a front row seat to his miracles and the unworldly grace and mercy he showed to those that came near.

I can’t call myself a disciple, as they were, in my own walk with Jesus. Yet my own relationship with him began over thirty years ago. I’ve had over thirty years – over thirty years’ time spent talking with him in prayer, feeling his words speak directly into my heart through his Word, being transformed by his unbelievable grace, mercy and healing. I’ve learned even in the most desperate pain-filled hours that He is with me, holding me up, helping me walk on, and much to my amazement even giving me joy in the midst of pain.

Yesterday I was reading John 6. Jesus is talking to the people he’d just fed the day before, when he miraculously turned five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed over five thousand, with enough left over to fill twelve large baskets. Late that day, the disciples leave by boat for Capernaum, across the Sea of Galilee. Overnight, Jesus leaves the shore crossing the sea by foot. A storm hits in the middle of the night and Jesus appears to the disciples who’re already afraid, but even more upon seeing him. He tells them not to be afraid. “It’s me,” he says and enters the boat. The next day the people realize Jesus is no longer with them. They know he didn’t leave with the disciples and they immediately board boats to seek after him in Capernaum. There they confront him, asking when he’d arrived. His response to them is profound.

“You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.

Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
John 6:26-27 (The Message)

I was struck by his words and saddened, because my own inattention to him was glaringly obvious to me. I had to ask myself a painfully difficult question and be honest about my answer. Am I seeking him for what he can give me or do I seek to know him, just to know him? My heart was pricked by the fact that like those people he spoke with in John 6, I’ve not always just sought him and him alone, but often for the help or healing he can bring.

Why? I have no excuse. In all honesty, I think it boils down to fear and getting caught up in the difficulties of each day. Yet I already know that when I seek him alone, fear melts away. Eleven years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was two weeks after my first child was born, my mom’s first grandson. With her diagnosis, there was much fear and pain. Questions asking why were eventually put aside and the initial grief over the diagnosis was replaced with the knowledge that God himself was walking this road with us. He hadn’t abandoned my mom and would continue to be there for her and for us, her family. Prayers were and continue to be offered up on her behalf. It’s a natural thing to pray for help and healing. In fact, we’re commanded to bring our cares to God, because he cares like no other.

The other day I received news that this disease I hate has begun to progress even more in my mom. This disease that has ravaged her brain and is stealing away her precious memories piece by piece is taking even more of her, of who she is, threatening to steal away even her dignity. Deep down I know it can’t, because dignity is something that is God-given and simply is. Yet, the disease is there.

With this news, I have a choice to make – a choice to panic, to become embittered or to simply go to the one who cares, who’s proven time and time again to be the only real choice. Yet along with seeking his help, I also know that too often I come to him just asking for healing and help with whatever situation’s on the horizon. I’ve experienced God’s presence and its’ perfect, sublime simplicity that covers over any and every storm. And yet, I come to him in this state. He’s given me peace “that passes understanding” and I trade it for panicked pleas for help.

When I remember his perfect, sustaining peace at moments like this, my only desire is to know him. Because apart from desiring more of him and knowing him, there is no peace. I’ve learned this the hard way. He really is enough. My choice is to know him more today. Whatever situation you find yourself in today, if you find yourself outside of that perfect peace, come to him and seek him alone. If it’s peace you’re seeking, Jesus really is the only way.

Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com