This is the second week of Advent. Advent is the time on the church calendar immediately preceding Christmas. The idea - and it's a good one - is to arrive at December 25 with our hearts and minds ready for Jesus rather than distracted, exhausted and burned out from festive excess.
The right words for Advent are words such as:
Traditionally, the four weeks of Advent focus on Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. Not always in that order, but it's the order I use in my 2008 Christmas book.
Serious Ooops! This year, with Christmas coming on a Sunday, Advent is packed with the full twenty-eight days. "Great," I thought to myself, "this is the first year my book fits Advent exactly; people can read every chapter." So I took a look at the table of contents this morning and realized - for the first time - that my Advent math was off. Amazingly, the editors at Upper Room Books all missed it too!
It turns out that "In My Heart I Carry A Star" does not have a chapter for Friday, December 23....
PEACE: Yesterday, at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, Rebekah preached about peace. It's interesting - and she pointed this out - that we repeat the same conversation year after year after year. We talk about peace; we bemoan the fact that we live in a world beset by conflict and war; we wonder aloud if "The peace that passes all understanding" will have a shot, maybe, in the coming 2012...? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah....
Rebekah shared a lot of good stuff, but the point she made that resonated the most with my emerging theology had to do with the gift of peace, and our responsibility to receive it.
RECEIVE IT! I talk and write a lot about peace as an action word. Peace as something that we do. But today I'm thinking about the importance of receiving the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace. The idea has a whole other feel to it.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid - John 14:27
Jesus offers peace as a gift. But the thing about gifts is that you have to receive them; you have to unwrap them; you have to use them; you really should write a thank you note; and - because the gift has blessed you so much - you have to pass it on.
THANK YOU: So this is my thank you note to Jesus for the peace. "Thanks for the peace, Lord. You were right, it's not anything like I-want-some-peace-and-quiet, the absence-of-conflict, the tentative-truce-between-warring-parties, or the greetings-card-schmaltz our culture advertises."
The Jesus quality of peace is a penetrating knowing, the healing of relationships, this sense of groundedness in eternity, a deep breath of fresh air, the transcendent fragrance of immortality. It's a gift I want to understand enough to give away.
Amen - DEREK