Waves of grief in some form or another have struck many I know and love. I spent most of my prayer time this morning speaking the names of those I know are hurting this holiday season.
Loved ones who have passed, battles of illness, change and transition, chaotic and frustrating trials. We grieve the losses of life whether that be from death, illness, change, etc.
And in the midst of this grief is a gnawing pain that does not let up. It quiets itself to give us moments to breathe, but never stays dormant for long. And we wonder if we could just take a breath.
We long for relief from the pain of this world. Too many hardships that keep knocking on our doors, and we wonder where God is in the midst of it all.
The season of advent reminds us of pain. Wait, you say. Isn't advent al celebration, anticipation, and hope? Of course. Yet, it was never absent of pain. Ever.
The world's Christmas celebrations fly in the face of all that advent was and represents. Nice wrapped packages with beautiful sparkles and bows do not represent advent. In fact, if advent had come wrapped-you would have left it under the tree.
Recycled paper, dirty and smelling like yesterday's garbage. Crudely placed over a rotting box that is falling apart at the seams. And, yet, if you so dared to brave the unkept, pungent surface of this package - you would unwrap the sweetest, brightest treasure. That was advent.
This second week of advent I am reflecting on peace and preparation.
How do we prepare ourselves to find our Messiah? What do we expect of the promised peace?
I do not think a manger in Bethlehem would have been part of their preparations as the awaited the Messiah. Simple folk as Mary and Joseph would not have been expected to birth such royalty.
In much the same way, we have expectations of our Savior that He seemingly fails each time. We prepare ourselves for the rescue of our King, and yet our preparations can never truly prepare us for how He comes.
Like Christmas, we expect our redemption to come as beautifully wrapped packages under the Christmas tree while eating delectable foods with our family and friends. When redemption and rescue does not come the way we prepared or expected-we find ourselves disappointed, disillusioned, and somewhat broken.
In fact, our actual Christmas seasons often come with grief, sorrow, and conflict. And, in response, we scream out at a God we can't seem to find in the midst of it all.
Where is the hope, the peace you have promised? In raw pain, we cry out wondering if our rescue will ever come.
Nonetheless, this is where the peace comes. The peace of our sweet King does not come in the absence of pain, it comes in the midst of the pain. While we will never be absent from pain on this earth, we are promised peace in the midst of it.
If we look for our Messiah and desire His peace as an escape from the pain we experience while living in a broken world-we will search without end.
There are many promises of His peace. He says, Peace I give and peace I leave with you. Yet, you must remember, it is not peace that the world would give.
His peace is one that will pass all understanding. It will be a peace that comes not because all is well externally, but because all is well in our inner world.
We are reminded in scripture that we are never promised a pain free life, troubles are certain to come. But, we are promised the peace and grace to sustain, and the hope of life in Christ.
In fact, one thing is guaranteed. We will experience the pain and sorrow of living in a broken world-but as the scriptures remind us...though the mountains be moved, the earth shakes around us-His promise of peace stands firm forever.
Christmas is a moment - if we are willing to accept it - where we are reminded of a sweet peace that existed in the life of pain, longing, and confusion. Jesus, then, was that sweet peace that came in a surprising way and settled in the pain of that present world. And Jesus, today, remains that same sweet peace in the midst of our pain. Don’t allow the surprising ways in which He comes or the fact that the pain is not erased keep you from missing the promise of peace.
Christmas does not represent hope, light, and peace without darkness. Rather, Christmas represents the hope, light, and peace that exists in the midst of the darkness.