Today is the first Sunday in Advent. We arrive again at the very beginning of the church year, preparing our hearts for the Advent of the Christ once again. This year our theme for the Advent season is Lighting the Way. This week we are lighting the way to an unfamiliar peace.
peace, it seems, is unfamiliar
violence breaks out here
its roots far below the surface
where hatred and strife bellow and burn
and we are in the middle of it all
live streaming our way to God’s house,
the holy space we create together
in the heart of chaos.
come, Christ, come
keep us awake and ready
to gather our weapons to pile them up
to melt them down –
words into wisdom
guns into grace
swords into silence
spears into solitude.
make what is unfamiliar,
as we light this candle for peace,
light our way.
Here we are your people, asking for peace. Where is your peace, O God?
Your Spirit is blowing at every corner of the Earth spreading the gift of peace,
so let our hearts beat with your rhythm of peace.
Open our hearts so that we can feel your peace wherever we are.
When your peace dwells in us we will be at home everywhere.
In these uncertain times enlighten us, oh God, with your peace. Amen.
From Psalm 122 (ETR)
Pray for peace…’May those who love you find peace. May there be peace within your walls. May there be safety in your great buildings. For the good of my family and neighbors, I pray that there will be peace here.’
Wisdom of Corrie Ten Boom
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Matthew 24.36, 42
“No one knows when that day or time will be… So always be ready. You don’t know the day your Lord will come.”
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
Lighting the Way to an Unfamiliar Peace
Today is the first week of Advent. This is the first day of the new church year. Today we begin our journey to Christmastide again. This is familiar territory for us. Each year we tell and retell the story of the birth of Jesus. We revisit the stories of our tradition because within those stories we find our own stories. Within the trials and tribulations, the courage and the suffering of those in the stories, we find the strength to endure whatever we face in our lives.
Part of the story of Christmas is the symbolism of Advent. Advent is the four weeks preceding Christmas, a time of preparation, of spiritual practice, and a time of growth for our inner selves. This is a time of nurturing the best that is in us. This is a time to grow in patience, in tolerance, and in love. Advent is a time of peace.
For us in the modern world the peace of advent is shattered by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales that encourage us to spend more than we can afford and buy into a commercial version of what Christmas means. Today we reflect on our theme for this first week of Advent, Lighting the Way to an Unfamiliar Peace.
As people of faith we have a responsibility for how we live our lives in the world. Our reality is based not on the day to day news that spews from every form of media with which we are bombarded. Our reality is based on the timeless truths we find in sacred texts and sacred writings of all kind, in music, art, and dance. A significant part of our spiritual practice ought to be learning to enjoy this kind of beauty along with the beauty of nature itself. These things rest our weary minds and restore us to balance that leads to peace of mind.
I don’t know about you but I don’t have a lot of that elusive elixir in my day to day world. Peace of mind is so unfamiliar to me that often I have difficulty recognizing it. Peace is often rooted in something so mundane that I often overlook it completely… silence. As I write these words on this beautiful autumn Sunday I hear the whisper of the wind in the trees outside my window, the familiar foot falls of those who live in my house, an airplane leaving Boston Logan airport, the ticking of the clock in my office. Today I’m preparing for this first Sunday in Advent by taking some time to be quiet and listen.
We can’t give away what we do not have for ourselves. So I suggest that the way we can best light the way for others to experience this unfamiliar peace is to allow time in our busy lives to experience it for ourselves. In my office hangs a small framed piece by Goethe that says, “A [person] should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day … in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
Finding our way to peace need not be an arduous journey. Finding our way to peace can be a journey of joy and enjoyment of all the wonderful things of beauty in the world. And perhaps the beginning of that enjoyment is simply sitting in silence with our own thoughts and feelings just long enough to quiet our minds and hear from our own inner self what it is we need in any given moment.
How we live our lives is the one most important thing we can contribute to lighting the way for the world to find an unfamiliar peace. Yes we need our anger to motivate us to action, yes we need to educate ourselves regarding the injustices in the world, yes we need to speak up and speak out when those who cannot speak for themselves are oppressed. And… we need to prepare ourselves for this eventuality. That means we are responsible for our own inner health as well as taking good care of our bodies.
This week, in our first week of Advent let us find our way to an unfamiliar peace by taking a few moments of silence each day and then following Goethe’s suggestion to “…hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day … in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” It’s worth the time investment. And in taking care of ourselves in this way we will have the strength to share our peace with those for whom peace is an unfamiliar state.
Let’s give it a try as we prepare for the Advent of the Christ in the world again. May God’s peace, no matter how unfamiliar or unusual, light our way this week. And may we all prepare our hearts for the love of Christ to enter our hearts again. Amen.