Just days ago, I woke up in the morning to the feeble voice of my youngest child. “Mom, my stomach hurts really bad,” she managed. In that moment, the heaviness of sleep was replaced by the heaviness of hurt for my child’s pain and the collision of my expectations for the day with the reality that everything would have to change. We scrambled to get my child a personal trash can and a place to snuggle in on the couch. I called the school to let them know she would be absent that day. And I fretted, “What if it isn’t a stomach bug? What if COVID has found its way into our house?” (We all took rapid, at-home tests, and tested negative.)
The next day, I tried to rearrange my schedule in the office to attend to both of my kids who weren’t feeling well. When it became evident rearranging was impossible, I rushed to set up the technology for my hybrid Bible Study, and I attempted to be fully present to my hybrid class (even though fully present and hybrid seem like impossible things to do at the same time). In the middle of my class lesson, someone came into the church in need of pastoral care. I walked away from my Bible study lesson to make sure the person who was in need was taken care of, and I left the rest of my study group to muddle along without me. After attending to the person, I went back to my class, only to be interrupted several more times. Class time wrapped up, and I rushed home again. My hands were trembling as I drove home. What a morning.
The day after that, with both kids healthy and back at school, I was convinced this day would have space enough for reflection and writing. I set up my writing desk, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat down to write…
…and then my dog immediately emptied the bathroom trash can and decorated the floor tile with all of the tissues, dental floss, and Q-tips he discovered within.
Some weeks, it’s truly more evident than others that there’s no peace on earth.
As I reflect on the last two years, I realize we’ve all been acutely aware of how much we need peace. Pandemic, job loss, stay-at-home orders, loss of loved ones, grief over activities canceled, major life events postponed to safer times. We’ve weathered uncertainty, fear, pain, learning how to do our jobs all over again, and what-ifs largely without the comforts of things that normally perk us back up when we’re experiencing difficulties: time with friends and family, trips to a local coffee shop, wandering the aisles in a store, listening to live music. The last two years have been tough. For pretty much everyone.
The second week of Advent comes along and invites us to look for God’s peace. But, how do we experience God’s peace in a time when there is no peace? What does it look like to explore the idea of peace in a chaotic and uncertain time?
I am reminded that both the Greek and Hebrew words for peace (eirene and shalom) have more to do with wholeness than with quiet or rest. Eirene comes from the verb that means “to join together” or “to tie into a whole.” Shalom is about wholeness and goodness in the relationship between things. Perhaps, our calling in a world without peace isn’t to strive for days off, or quiet hours, or interruption-free days (though those things are blessings, too), but to participate in the work of tying things back together. In peace-less days, we are called to be peacemakers, with all of the grit and difficulty that will entail.
Advent for Uncertain Hearts Candle Lighting Litany – Week 2 – When There Is No Peace
Typically, I begin with all of the candles in place in my Advent wreath. This year, I am beginning with just the wreath and no candles. Each week, we will place a candle in the wreath as we ask God to help us receive the gifts of each Advent week.
Reader 1: At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered his listeners the Beatitudes. These words of blessing came before some difficult teachings on real world struggles, like how to deal with our anger, what happens when relationships are broken, and the importance of loving our enemies. Matthew 5:9 says this, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Reader 2: We want to be peacemakers, but we are weary.
Reader 1: We are weary from carrying the burdens of a world groaning with sickness, death, and grief. We long for the peace of Christ, but we do not know how to work for it in these uncertain days.
Reader 2: In Matthew 11, we find these words: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” In this place, in this moment, let us unburden ourselves and allow Jesus to carry these heavy things with us.
Reader 1: Today, we are placing the candle of peace in our Advent wreath. <place candle in wreath and light it> We do this not because we have peace figured out or because we have perfectly pushed our uncertainty away. We place the candle of peace in this wreath to remind us that working for peace is not all on our shoulders. When we are too weary to work for peace, our God is still working and making all things new.
Reader 2: We long for the peace that surpasses all understanding.
All: This season of Advent, Lord, we offer our uncertain hearts to you. Mend our broken places, and soothe our reluctant hearts. Even when peace seems an unreachable goal, we cling to you. Work for peace for us even when we are too weary or uncertain to move forward, for nothing is impossible for you. Amen.
For the rest of the Advent for Uncertain Hearts series: