Advent is upon us.  The four Sundays leading to Christmas Eve are actually the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians.  It is a time of preparation and anticipation.  The word itself means “coming” or “visit”.  In other words, it is a time to prepare for the coming of our Lord, a time to remember the visit that changed the world for all eternity.  Ironic, isn’t it?  The month leading to Christmas when we should be preparing our hearts for the coming of our Lord, perhaps even slowing down a bit to savor the mystery of God becoming Man in order to save our very souls, is not a time when many of us are at our most introspective.   And “slowing down” is not even in our vocabulary – that, we will save for January.  

I am writing this, not to strangers, but to my brothers and sisters within my church family, many who know me well.  I won’t pretend to be oblivious to the material charms of the season.  I love for my home (and my church) to sparkle during the holidays.  I love the warmth of the lights, the smell of fresh greens, the invisible, yet palpable air of anticipation that emanates from a city dressed in her finest.  I love the sounds of Christmas, the melodic voice of Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas, church choirs accompanied by horns and violins heralding the coming of the King, and the ever-present cacophony of carols playing in my car while I run around buying stuff nobody needs.  The joyfulness of the season is appropriate - we should be in a celebratory mood.  As Christians, we have much to celebrate!  But when I walk to my mailbox to gather the jewels within, cards bearing the beautiful faces of children and families that I love, the predictable best wishes of peace, joy and love for the season, I think to myself, peace?  What peace?  I’ve got plenty of love and more joy than I deserve, but peace seems to be in short supply, perhaps even elusive. 

As a Christian, I seem to be entitled to it, however.  A host of angels proclaimed it following the birth of the Christ child, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”.  Paul begins all of his epistles with a favored greeting to the churches, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  And Jesus, preparing his disciples for his imminent departure, promises that the Father will send the Holy Spirit in His name.  He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”  Peace, you see, seems to be a gift.  A particular gift for those who are in Christ.  I am certainly “at peace” in my salvation, but quite often I do not feel “peaceful” in my life.  Why is this?  And I am going to assume here that I am not alone.  Much has to do with our environment.  We do not live in a peaceful world.  Our world is violent, hateful, dangerous and frightening.  This is nothing new, however.  Man has been at war with man, and Satan at war with all men, from time immemorial.   And in our own country, divisiveness, hateful rhetoric and an obstinate refusal to listen to anyone’s opinion but one’s own, is the new normal.  But that’s government and politics, and in the end, at least for me, it’s not what ultimately robs me of peace.

So, what does? What robs me of peace, not only during Advent, but during the course of the year? I would say two things; one a calendar of events that is full to overflowing with activities, many of which could, and probably should, be eliminated, and two, a propensity to worry about EVERYTHING. First of all, my boys are grown and gone. I’m not feeding them five times a day, running carpool, overseeing homework, bathing them (or begging them to bathe), washing loads of laundry or attending what was a never ending schedule of sporting events. So, what in the world am I doing?  I’m still running.  But often not after what I need.  What I need, is more rest in Him. What I need, is to remember that a gift, even the gift of peace, is not a gift until it is received.  I need to listen to my Lord again and again.  “Do not be anxious about anything, (Kelli) but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

I hope you will join me during this blessed season of Advent by asking God to search our hearts, to sweep clean the unnecessary noise of our lives so that we can look for Him, find Him and receive His peace.

~ Kelli Heartsill