Today is the Second Sunday of Advent.
Christmas preparations are in full swing based on the insane amount of traffic that can now be found in all the shopping areas.
Lights are twinkling on houses. Baked goods of red, green, silver, and gold line the shelves of bakeries. Tree lots have almost magically appeared over night and calendars are filling up with holiday parties, Christmas activities, and family gatherings.
We may or may not still be going strong in our Advent devotional readings.
In many churches across our country and around the world believers are listening to messages this morning that include John the Baptist and his voice crying out in the wilderness and his rather interesting fashion choices. And while this is an important passage where we hear the prophesy of Isaiah coming true in the form of John, that is not the lectionary passage that caught my attention this morning.
It is rather the passage from Romans 15:1-13 , specifically the verses of 4-6 that caught my attention and that I have been meditating on most of this morning:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NRSV)
The general theme of this Romans passage as a whole is to be sefless instead of selfish, and to do so without judgement.
We as Christian brothers and sisters should lift each other up and live in peace as the scriptures of old have instructed us to do through the strength and encouragement of God. The key to this passage I believe is that this can only happen through the strength and encouragement of God.
We must be at peace within ourselves and accept who we are in God in order to be able to extend this same peace and acceptance to those around us.
This is part of the work of Advent.
What is it about our current society that makes this season of peace not very peaceful? Leave it to us human beings to turn the season of peace and blessings into the season of chaos and competition.
We try to make the perfect Hallmark channel holiday for our families feeling we need to do it all ourselves and come up with an endless to do list:
- Baking special cookies and treats
- Preparing elaborate meals
- Presents for everyone we have ever met beautifully wrapped complete with handmade bows
- Decking the halls with decorations inside
- Magical outdoor displays
- Seasonal must-do activities
- Partys and get togethers
As much as I love the Hallmark Channel and its Countdown to Christmas movies, real life doesn’t tend to work like this or allow time for all of these things. Not if we want to have peace.
In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with any of these things. It is when we allow ourselves to become so caught up in feeling like we have to do all of these things (and do them well) that we become overwhemled and lose the peace the Savior of this season wants to bring to us.
Our God is a God of love and he wants us to live life abundantly and joyfully.
So decorate the house, bake the cookies, sing in the Christmas choir, but do so with intentionality and moderation. Have you ever noticed that the characters in the Hallmark Channel movies are almost never seen doing regular housework or cooking evening meals before rushing off to their daily evening Christmas activities in town?
Be kind and gentle on yourself – you don’t have to do it all on top of your regurlar responsibilities. It’s okay to buy the cookie tray or leave the tree decorated in only lights if that is all you have the time and energy for this year. It’s okay to not buy gifts to the point of putting ourselves into financial debt.
Because Advent is a time of preparation – preparation of our hearts:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NRSV)
Advent is a time of preparation – not of our homes but of ourselves. A reset and refresh of our hearts and minds so that we may feel renewed so that when the Prince of Peace arrives our hearts and minds are open to him. We can gladly invite him into our homes and welcome him into our hearts all over again.
Advent is a time to consider how do I make peace with myself? How do I make peace with my past, present, and future? Because it is only when we are at peace within ourselves that we can truly extend peace to others.
And only our heavenly Father can bring us that peace that surpasses all understanding.
O come, o come Emanual.
We long for your peace, justice, and mercy in our hearts and in our world.
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. (Isaiah 11:1-5, NRSV)
Click here to listen to Welcome To Our World by Michael W. Smith