One of my favorite Advent themes is peace. Often, I go to our sanctuary during the week, when it is quiet and empty. The sun filters through the stained glass. Each time I visit, I sit in a different part of the room. I imagine seeing the pews filled with people and experiencing worship.
No matter where I sit in the sanctuary, peace is present. God is there. (I know that God is everywhere. Psalm 139:7-12 will not let us forget about God’s omnipresence.) Yet, in the thin space of the sanctuary, I have a greater sense of God’s presence than in some other places. When I sit in the sanctuary and feel God’s presence, I also feel God’s peace. Everything is okay. Or, it will be. To me, this is the peace of Advent.
The journey traces Mary and Joseph’s steps to Bethlehem. No matter how we sanitize Jesus’ birth narrative, the story is scandalous. It’s anything but peaceful. Mary was young and engaged, but unmarried. When the angel visited her, she was “much perplexed,” which is a gross understatement. Peace appears, at first, to be absent from the story. Then, Mary visits Elizabeth and her “soul magnifies the Lord.”
During Advent, like Mary, peace might be evasive for you. So many things can stir us up: the third wave of COVID-19, sadness over cancelled Christmas concerts, disappointment because we cannot visit relatives, or something else. Yet, peace is still available.
There is no magic formula for finding God’s peace during Advent. I cannot tell you a specific prayer to recite like an incantation. No song will universally and automatically bring about God’s peace. To each one of us, God offers peace in different ways. It might be a prayer or a song for you. It could also be something like buying the Christmas tree, sending cards, phoning a friend, or eating a holiday delight.
God is speaking through all of our traditions. Our first job is to open our eyes and see the peace of the season. Our second job is to pause the news and holiday busyness and experience God’s peace. Once you have experienced some peace, find a way to share it with another person. It might be the greatest gift they receive this year.
I pray peace for you during this second week of Advent.