Advent: peace

Full disclosure, I think I made myself a too little busy this week to adequately reflect on peace. But all was not lost, I thought, because I had a trip planned to the beach this weekend. What is more peaceful than leaving the busy city for the beach? Plan it with 10 other people, however, and that peaceful retreat you were hoping for will get challenged a bit. Couple that with having my first real experience with food poisoning… lets just say, it did not turn out how I was hoping.

But I think there must be more to peace than finding quiet time or quiet places, that is a part of it, but it also must be a mindset. I think peace, at its best, is when we can channel it even in the craziest of times.

Just before I left for the beach, one of my Thai workers at the coffee shop said something to me that threw me off a little bit. It was just a comment about a certain way that I handle things and interact with people. It wasn’t meant to be a criticism, if anything she was trying to be encouraging. But it tugged at an insecurity of mine that I have had for a long time and threw my self-critical mind into overdrive. The crowd, the sickness, and and comment ate away at my peace all weekend.

So the question I am reflecting on now is, how do you channel peace even in turmoil?

Well, I suppose the most obvious answer to that question is to turn to God. If I am honest, though, I sometimes still have a pretty hard time turning to God for comfort. I often feel like I want something more tangible, someone to hold me and tell me its all going to be all right or for God to just fix the problem and make it all go away. But the promise God makes us is that he will be with us, not that he will take away pain and problems. And sometimes that is hard. But again, Jesus showed us the way with his words to God in Gethsemane as he awaited death : “Not my will, but yours be done.” And I think that must be where true peace lies: letting go.

I just want to hold on to so much, but the more we hold on to, the less peace we have. And of course letting go is a lot easier said than done, especially if there is a lot of pain, insecurity, or uncertainly involved. But holding on to things doesn’t necessarily make things any better either. At the end of the day, however God cares infinitely more about us than we could possibly care about ourselves. There is peace so much peace in trusting that God has it all taken care of.

So really, we have access to that great peace in all circumstances. Peace that God is bigger than our circumstances, peace that God is made perfect in our weaknesses, and peace that God is with us, all the time. I read once that there are two definitions of peace. Most of us, when we think of peace, revert to the Greek definition “eirene” which means the “absence of conflict”. The Hebrew word for peace, “shalom,” overlaps some, but it’s core meaning is “wholeness” both personally and collectively. So “shalom” is not really about an absence of conflict at all, but ore about our journey to wholeness that Jesus is leading us toward, and there may be conflict along the way.

Some other thoughts, in the story of Jesus’ birth, there is a point at which gales appear to nearby shepherds:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:8-14

It seems these Angels were pretty excited to praise Jesus’ arrival, and these words of praise brought forth declarations of peace, as if somehow these things go hand in hand. Maybe one of the results of praising God is the receiving of peace. And I guess when I think through that more, this is absolutely true. Those moments that I am fully caught up in praise and worship of God are also some of my most peace filled moments. Maybe thats is why we are called to, elsewhere in the Bible, praise God during all circumstances. Something to think about.

Then there is the “peace among those with whom he is pleased” part. I guess the carol is wrong, its not a declaration of “peace on earth” but, rather, a declaration of peace on to those who God is pleased, namely, those who have come into his family. That is where peace lies; outside of God, there is no true peace.

So a benediction then, from the words in Philippians, in this advent season may “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”



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