Greetings, friends! I hope that you had a prayerful and hopeful first week of Advent. This week, we’ll focus on peace. Missed last week’s message on Hope? Check out the previous part of this series!
Once again, I’ll be referencing Sunday’s readings, so if you haven’t read them or would like a refresher, click here.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Let’s take a moment to put ourselves in a prayerful state of mind, acknowledging God’s presence and thanking Him for opening His Word to us.
Before we delve into the readings, let’s take some time to consider the concept of peace.
After you finish reading this paragraph, close your eyes. Take a deep breath in — and a deep breath out. Roll your shoulders back; relax the muscles in your neck and back. Sit like this for a few moments, slowing your breathing — take a minute to press pause on all of the craziness that exists in your life, and allow yourself to just be. When you’re done, open your eyes.
Didn’t that feel good?
If not, that’s okay. It can be hard to shut your mind off for a few minutes and stop yourself from frantically thinking about what’s coming next.
Whether that experience felt refreshing or not, take a second to think about when you last took a few moments to be still. How long has it been? A few hours? Days? Weeks? In the hectic chaos and stress that inevitably exists in our everyday lives, it can be difficult to remember that we need time to reflect, center ourselves, and be still — a need that has only been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reflect again for a moment on what it felt like to close your eyes for a few minutes and be still. Did you feel at peace? If not, imagine the last time you felt truly at peace.
Got that peaceful memory solidly fixed in your mind? Perfect. Now take that feeling and multiply it by infinity.
That’s what the peace of Christ feels like.
Let’s take a look at this glorious peace in Sunday’s first reading. This passage from Isaiah begins with a beautifully reassuring line: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end.” The loving and tender voice of God reaches out to embrace His chosen people, to envelop them with His peace. He assures them that their troubles are at an end, that He wishes to love them as they have never been loved before.
This peace is no fragile or imperfect thing, like the often shaky peace deals between warring nations. According to the psalm, the peace of the Lord is like nothing we’ve ever seen before:
“Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.”Psalm 85:10-11
The peace the Lord provides is a perfect union between contradictory things. Truth, which is often harsh, becomes kind; peace, which often comes at the expense of justice, kisses it. The peace of the Lord is not a delicate, forced facade — it is a strong, balanced truth that springs mightily out of the Earth and yet looks tenderly down on us from Heaven.
This balance of strength and care is seen yet again at the end of the first reading. Verse ten reads: “Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.” This image portrays God as a warrior, ruling with power and strength.
Verse eleven immediately paints a contrast: “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” Instead of the warrior portrayed in the last verse, the God of this verse is paternal, loving, gathering us into His bosom.
The beauty of the Lord and His peace is that it is not one or the other of these images — it is both. The Lord simultaneously wraps us in His mantle of care and strikes out against our enemies. In His peace, we feel protected, valued, safe, and — most importantly — loved.
Christ offers us the complete version of this peace in our deaths and His Second Coming — in the offer to spend eternity with Him. How do we achieve that eternal peace? Firstly and most importantly, through God’s mercy and love. Secondly, by truly accepting His offer of eternity by preparing ourselves to spend it with Him — by forging a relationship with Him through prayer.
Advent, as I’ve mentioned before, is a season of preparation. Perhaps the best way to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming (both at Christmas and in the future) is by developing our relationship with him through prayer. There are literally thousands of ways to pray, and I don’t have enough space to cover them here. However, I will include what I think is the most important element of prayer: giving yourself time to be at peace in God’s presence.
This is as simple as the few deep breaths we took earlier — all we need to do is bring God into it (which should elicit an improvement). At some point throughout your day, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, say hello to God — and imagine yourself giving all of your worries and concerns over to Him. Feel the weight lifting off your shoulders as you breathe in and out. After you have given your load to Him, imagine God cupping your face in His hands — He is smiling broadly. He is so thankful you have trusted Him enough to give your worries to Him; so happy His beloved is learning to love Him in return. Take a few more deep breaths. When you open your eyes, don’t take that load back.
This week, be sure to spend time in prayer in order to prepare yourself for Christ’s coming. While the peace we feel in prayer in only a brief shadow of the peace to come, it is a beautiful reminder that God loves us immensely, perfectly, and completely.
Have a great week! Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you enjoyed it, please comment or share it with a friend.
May God’s peace be with you!