Greg's Weekly Word: "peace"
Advent is not a peaceful time in my house.
Sure, a lot of it has to do with my work at the church, as we are getting the sanctuary decorated and preparing for special events and services... And this year, doing a capital campaign on top of it all!
But what most adds to the lack of peace in my household is how we celebrate Advent with our kids. My wife, Suzy, plans some kind of Advent activity for every.single.day. From December 1st until December 24th.
Don't get me wrong: they're lots of fun! A carriage ride downtown, Christmas movies, special meals... We have a "Night of the Lights" - when we drive around to look at Christmas lights, then finish at our favorite: the Hot Light at Krispy Kreme. We also have a Polar Express night with some friends, watching the movie and drinking hot chocolate (and making the dads do the Hot Chocolate dance).
And as fun and good as these are, it also makes for a full December. Advent is not peaceful or peaceable...at least not for me. But I'm not sure that it should be.
In his book Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner reminds us that in Hebrew, peace (shalom)
means fullness, means having everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself.
Which might seem to contradict how we often think of peace, until you realize that for Jesus, peace was not the absence of struggle (or activity!), but the presence of love.
And while my Advent is full of activity, it is also full of love - made present to me in special ways through these daily plans.
And that love is shared, too. Because those daily activities also include learning about Hanukkah to better understand and honor how our Jewish friends experience God's presence, and shopping for gifts for an under-resourced child from our church's Angel Tree, and "chalk caroling" encouraging messages at senior adults' homes, and giving away some of our toys and clothes and possessions so others can "have everything [they] need to be wholly and happily [themselves]."
In the end, I suppose I (we?) shouldn't hope for a peaceful or peaceable Advent, but a peacemaking Advent. Better yet - as we await the presence of Love Incarnate to be born among us once more - perhaps we can find ways to allow that love to be born in us, and to create peace in the lives of others.
As the carol sings,
O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
Not just today, and not just in Advent, but every day.