Walking Our Faith: Where will you find peace this Christmas? (column)
It’s been snowing all day, and this evening I can’t see the stars beyond the blanket of clouds, yet I know they are there, just as I know God is here. In a few days we will celebrate that night when God became man and came into this world born of the Virgin Mary.
In the humblest of circumstances, he chose to live among us not as a king, not a rich merchant, not a warrior. He was born poor. He chose these humble beginnings to help us understand that he is God for everyone. God demonstrated his love for each of us by becoming one of us.
Peace. This week I find myself imagining that first Christmas night and peace is what I feel, so different than the explosive joy I first imagined — no, this is a reverential peace. In Ignatian mediation we are encouraged to experience ourselves within a Biblical scene to understand it more fully. I imagine a hushed silence, a sacred suspension in the hectic energy of the world as the universe pauses to acknowledge this most holy moment, all has stilled.
We already know the rest of the story. The miracles and the suffering of Jesus’ adult life. But that is why we need this night to fill our hearts with the fullness of God’s peace as we gather around the infant Jesus, the night so still we hear the infant’s gentle breath as he sleeps.
Do you find yourself breathing in time with the Christ-child as you watch his tiny chest rise and fall? As you gaze upon the sleeping child, do you catch glimpses of the Divine in the tender human face? Let’s go into the desert and look to the heavens at the star-filled sky. Do they sparkle brighter tonight? If we strain our ears, do we detect the first strains of a choir of other-worldly voices among the stars?
Peace. Close your eyes and imagine standing next to me at this most holy event. Allow yourself to be fully present to experience it with your senses. Let your heart be filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit as it travels like a wave through every corner this night. Peace be with you. Peace be in you.
I hope we find the peace we need. I hope we experience God’s love for us and know the peace which can only be found in God’s heart, which is ours always. Is your heart hurting? Imagine this peace as a warm coat and experience God’s love for you. You are loved. You matter. Your life is not a mistake. Peace, my friend.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving I decorated my Christmas tree while I played Christmas carols. The true meaning of Advent had never connected in my mind. The four weeks leading up to Christmas were four weeks of Christmas festivities as far as I was concerned.
I have a conversation with the Reverend Charlie Brumbaugh, Rector of Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge, to thank for my first Advent observation.
That Advent was about quiet preparation and reflection before the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. It seemed so at odds with the festive atmosphere I associated with Christmas. Four weeks of contemplation was more than I could fathom. I couldn’t wait to put up my Christmas tree or sing Christmas carols. So, I didn’t. But after that conversation, I held a contemplative spirit, to see whether it made a difference.
Over the four weeks I gave each week of Advent a word. The first week was hope, and I discovered that without faith in God there could be no hope because that faith gives us the foundation which allows us to look forward.
The second week I chewed on faith and realized that faith is the trust in God we need to believe all things work out for our good, and with this evidence we hang on in the midst of our troubles, and know all will be well.
Last week I thought about joy and discovered lasting joy is not found outside ourselves but one we discover within when we link our hearts to God and know our joy is in the Lord.
This final week of Advent I hope you experience the peace which surpasses all understanding, which fills our hearts when we rest in God, secure in our knowledge that we are loved with a love that has no beginning and no end, by One who knew us before we were born, who knit us together in our mother’s womb, who knows our every need and knows our every mistake and loves us, still. Be still and experience the peace of that promise. In your quiet, accept God’s love for you.
I now understand how Advent prepares our hearts to welcome Jesus. I am grateful you shared this Advent journey with me.
I’ll be spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Florida with Mom. Be at peace, my friend. God loves you. He has come into this world to show you just how much.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her books can be found at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco.
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