For unto us a child is born. Born in a manger. Born for you and for me.
Born is the King of Israel, the Prince of Peace.
All through out the season of Advent these phrases keep showing up. We hear them said in sermons, we read them on cards, and we sing them in the Christmas carols that we listen to and play during the month of December.
The angels came with tidings of great joy to announce the Savior has been born. All throughout Advent we keep leaning into this mystery, that God took on flesh by being born of a virgin.
As this snowy fourth Sunday of Advent ushers in the week of Christmas do we look around us and see peace?
Do we feel peace?
In all of the phrases above, the action words are past tense. He is born, it is done, peace has come. I think that just like hope, faith, and joy, peace is something we have to let into our hearts.
These are all things we need to keep actively choosing on a daily basis. It isn’t something that was accomplished once a long time ago in the past when a virgin gave birth to our Savior and laid him in a manger that lasts forever more.
The birthing of peace is an ongoing process.
When we encounter the baby Jesus and the peace he brings it is like any other act of faith, we have to choose to accept what he offers us and allow him to enter into our hearts.
So often when we speak of peace it is on a global scale. Peace on earth. Peace in our communities. Peace in our homes.
But what about peace in our hearts?
Not just towards other people in the world, in our towns, and in our families, but towards ourselves.
We live in a culture with high expectations. We are told that we need to be constantly striving for bigger and better. Everything is a competition of who has more or does more.
And because of these cultural expectations, we place incredibly high expectations on ourselves. Instead of becoming who we are meant to be we focus on who we think we are expected to be.
We keep track of expectations like boxes to be check off our to do lists. Graduation – check. Career – check. Married – check. House – check. Kid(s) – check. We want security and we want to know what is coming and have a plan in place for everything. We want to be in control.
And we don’t stop there.
Once we have all of these, we cause ourselves more stress because we want everything to be the best. We want everything to be memorable. So we strive without ceasing to create the perfect homes and to have the perfect holidays.
What about any of this brings us a sense of peace?
We are told to be extraordinary, but Advent invites us to take another look at what is expected of us and to reconsider. When we look towards the manger in Bethlehem, we can find our Lord Jesus waiting there to meet us in the midst of our chaos and expectations.
What does he require of us? To do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
When we find Jesus in the manger we find his invitation to let go of our control and to put it all into his. He invites us to not have to have it all figured out. He invites us to live without the expectations we put on ourselves.
He invites us to rest and to embrace who we are meant to be. To be still, and enjoy the small things.
It’s okay to be ordinary and content.
It’s okay to not know what’s coming next.
Jesus calls us to be present in the moment we are in now.
Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk and theologian who lived during the first half of the twentieth century offers us this perspective:
You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.
Jesus doesn’t promise us we won’t encounter struggles. What he does promise us is perfect peace when we lean not on our own understanding and instead put our trust into him.
For the past few weeks I have been sharing pictures of our Christmas tree. Today I want to share the other Christmas tree in our home.
It is much smaller. It is decorated with ornaments my mother made when I was small. It fits perfectly into the space it is meant to fill.
As we finish up our Advent journey this week and arrive at the manger with the new born King, I invite you to be like this Christmas tree.
Embrace where you are, with who you are, knowing you are meant to fill a specific space and that you are already doing this perfectly!
This year, let us find peace within ourselves and be comfortable just being.
Let us be actively seeking the peace that only God can bring to us.
O come, o come, Emmanual!
We are waiting in hope.
We are accepting in faith.
We are journeying in joy.
We are birthing new peace.