We are on our way. Ready or not and whether we feel prepared or not, we are on our way to Christmas.
We all know what that means right? We are on the way to long lines at the mall and shoppers on the lookout for bargains. We are on the way to bringing out the decorations and seeing which strand of lights needs replaced. We are on the way to finding the perfect gift while staying on budget. Lastly, we are on our way to dealing with impatient crowds and stressed out sales clerks.
But what if it didn't’ have to be that way. What if we could find a way to to a better way? What if we could cultivate a way within ourselves that leads to peace, fearlessness and faithfulness. What if those could be our gifts this year?
Sure there would still be lines, decorations, tangled strands of lights, price tags, letters to Santa, pine needles on the floor, and impatient crowds, but all of that would be on the way to something bigger, something greater, something far more meaningful.
Isaiah 2:1-5 speaks of a time of great peace. It says “God will settle things fairly between nations. God will make things right between many peoples. They will turn their swords into shovels and their spears into garden hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won’t play war anymore. Come family of Jacob, let’s live in the light of God.”
Perfect isn’t it? The picture perfect scene of peace. No more war. People sharing, working, giving, receiving, doing and being all from a place of peace. Like a painting or piece of music that takes you to a place of serenity and calm A place we all long for in some way yet never quite attain on our own. Notice however, it doesn’t say there won’t be tension, disagreement, or opposing ideas.
Those things will still exist as long as we humans are involved. It does say though that God will settle things, not us. God will make things right between people. We say we want peace, but I fear we want it on our terms, within our own boundaries, and on our own time frame. You know as well as I, it doesn’t work that way. It didn’t in the times of the prophets, those first followers of Jesus, and it doesn’t work that way today.
Recent survey results indicate we are an anxious people - majority of people living in constant flux, frustration and fear. Look around and you will see so much of our chaos is rooted in fear. Fear of being different. Fear of appearing weak. Fear of making someone mad. Fear of losing control. Fear of what is different. Fear of what is unknown. So many of the decisions being made, and choices being implemented are fear based.
Sounds like the way many in our world live today - in that unsettled state where anxiousness brews - as we watch the political scene unfold or fall apart, as more and more time, resources and attention are given to things that matter to very few, while less and less are given to things that matter to a great many.
That is not how we are called to live as followers of God and Jesus. That is the not the advent message found in Isaiah or Matthew 24, which includes the words, “keep awake, therefore,” “understand this,” and “you also must be ready” - words that can guide us toward a readiness for Jesus’s coming. These words call for an active waiting, and active expectation of something worth waiting for. We live in turbulent and dangerous times, that is true, but it does not mean peace is not possible. It means it comes in unexpected ways and we must keep watch for them.
This Advent do not sit idly by - Wake up! Seek out the way of peace - even in the walmart parking lot. Open your heart to what it takes to live in peace even with those you don’t agree with. Surrender that which keeps you from knowing peace - even if it means apologizing, accepting an apology, or letting go on long held anger. Pursue that which promotes peace for all people - even when others around you do not. Cling to the promise “all things work together for good” and “nothing can separate us from the love of God” and “all things are possible with Christ.”
That is the gift of Advent, of pursuing peace with God, and cultivating a heart more willing and ready to give and receive that which we find in the manger. And that is definitely worth waiting and preparing for.
God be with us on this Advent journey.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine