Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Cynthia Bourgeault wrote,
“The journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”
I am reminded, on a semi-regular basis, that contemplative prayer is very useful to allow us access to the hidden messages in our souls. Hidden messages from God, implanted in our very beings, and placed there for us to discover when we are most truly ourselves. Last week, we touched on the advent theme of Hope. This week we travel deeper into Advent to discover Peace.
Where do you find your greatest peace? Perhaps this time of year it might be sitting wrapped in a warm shawl or blanket in your favorite flannel shirt by the fire, sipping a hot beverage and watching out the window the wintry sun shining, hearing birds calling as they flock to feeders of seeds. Cares are far away; sounds of the immediate presence are simply just the natural sounds of nature, or possibly the crackle of the fire keeping you warm.
These final days of golden yellow-orange leaves upon my apple trees, falling daily to the ground for me to rake into piles can sometimes become, for me, a doorway to that peace. Similarly, when the carols of the season begin to waft through the air, a corresponding light-heartedness sometimes creeps into my being, despite the daily challenges and occasional sorrows that try to intrude. I am convinced in those moments, when peace is palpable, a window to our inner being is opened for a moment and the deep Shalom of God breathes into our very souls then creep through us outward to lessen our loads and give us strength. For this I am grateful. Grateful to rest for a moment, if only one moment within the day, knowing that Christ’s peace still awaits, eternally blooming in us, awaiting for our soul doorway to open, for our hearts to fill with his presence, and for us to let him in.
There are other kinds of peace, surely; peace that is the absence of war, peace when siblings get along together, sharing what they have for mutual enjoyment. There is the peace that is an absence of sound. True silence-solitude even, when there is nothing to cause our attentions to wander other than to simply be. There is the peace that touches each of us when an unexpected gift warms us from within and the peace that touches our spirits from without by another wishing us well.
But today, let us dwell upon the peace of Christ; that deep peace surpassing all understanding, all woes, all conflict and striving, all troubles and tribulations. A peace we can sense only so often – when we know that God is present, God’s got this, and we are not alone. This peace is Christ’s eternal Word planted in our souls, in, as Cynthia wrote, “the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”
How might we nurture this peace? How might we teach it and pass it on to those who will come after us? In worship, yes, when we gather in this place to offer thanks and praise, confession and sorrow, supplication and a listening heart. In worship through the songs we sing, the bread we break, the cup we share. In worship when we hear the Word spoken and reflect on enacting that implanted word in real behaviors woven through our day to day. In pausing in stillness, pondering the deeper things of God, how God has touch our lives and given us new life to live.
We might also nurture Christ’s peace in our activity – how we serve one another and the community in which we live. This servant peace, it challenges us to live outside our comfort zone sometimes with sacrificial giving of ourselves for the betterment of others around us. This servant peace that proclaims louder than words that something wholly Other has a hold on our lives, and we are seeking to live obedient to its call; a servant peace that witnesses to the One who was the Servant of Servants.
My friends, there is the other side of this, Christ’s peace, that we should bare in mind. Peace does not always equal serenity. In fact, sometimes it is serenity we seek, not peace. The peace of God can also mean readiness to face hard trials, willingness to go against the grain, and yes, even the way of suffering, as Jesus showed us with his passion. He came that the power of death would be swallowed up; and indeed, this ushers in the heavenly kingdom. But is also means there is an unbreakable connection between the manger and the cross. Standing firm in the word of God, in the truth that God has shown us, and in the integrity of our place as representatives of the House of God, means that we must live in Christ’s peace even when it is not easy and the world loves us not. Being at peace in the midst of tribulation is being firmly rooted in God, firmly following the heavenly way, standing on the mountain of God and holding up our hands to Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega, the righteous branch and the living tree.
Peace is also a bend in the road; Beginning the journey in hope, finding ourselves enveloped in God’s peace, we continue on toward joy, knowing that some day we will be the vanguard of heaven, leaders along the road less taken, partakers in the heavenly banquet to which we are called. Behold! The time is coming and has now come when the Holy One of Israel shall once more enter in, where brave souls shall receive him still., where are dear Lord fills us from within and makes us one with Him.
May all glory be unto the One for whom we wait, the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection
The prophet Malachi says that God is “like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap” (Mal. 3:2). Reflect on events of the past year. How has God been working to refine and purify your life or your community of faith?
Paul writes to the church at Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil.1:3–5). Think about people in your life for whom you give thanks, who have been in your prayers, and who have brought good news and joy to you this year. Consider writing them a letter or card to express your gratitude.
Household Prayer: Morning
Blessed are you, Lord God: by your tender mercy the dawn breaks upon us. Guide our feet this day in paths of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Blessed are you, Lord God: for you have smiled on us this day and redeemed us from our sin. Give light to all who wait in darkness until we rest with you in perfect peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.