“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
It’s hard sometimes. To not be anxious. To not be worried or stressed about events in life. General pressures, work situations, mistakes, unexpected occurrences, can all have us anxious. And who hasn’t felt anxious? Who hasn’t been worried, apprehensive, fearful, uneasy, perturbed, disquieted, troubled, agitated, tense, stressed, overwrought…. over something in life?
But here is Paul, telling us not to be anxious ever! He doesn’t ignore the fact that we may have cause to be worried. Instead he offers us a solution, by taking the situation to God, we can trade our anxiety for His peace. Our worry for His rest. God’s peace means tranquillity, calm, freedom from internal strife. You’re still in the storm but God’s peace prevails in your heart and mind. In essence, we can pray and not worry as we give our concerns to the Lord.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’ (1 Peter 5:7)
“Peace on earth, goodwill to men”
I don’t know what your year has held. Perhaps like mine it has had its hard days amongst the good. But as we during these final few days of Advent look towards Christmas we get to celebrate that amongst the messy, the hard and the difficult, God is with us.
No matter what is going on in your life, no matter the hard times or the heart breaking. No matter the injustices or the wrongs, we can let the truth of Christmas resonate in our hearts – that God is with us. You see even in the midst of the sometimes not so merry circumstances Jesus – Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counsellor is there with us. The promise of peace on earth, goodwill to men is an invitation for us today, a reality for us today.
We celebrate at Christmas not only that Christ was born but that He lived and lives today!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
I love words. If I could collect words as much as I apparently collect handbags I would! But sometimes our English language lets us down. It just doesn’t do justice to what we’re trying to convey.
In this second week of Advent I find that to be very much the case with the word peace. When we read that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that the angels proclaimed at His birth “Peace on Earth” we can be forgiven for thinking of hippies doing the peace sign and assume it only means an end to war, an end to disturbance.
But it goes much deeper than that. The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. And Shalom also means harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquillity.
I don’t know about you but I think I need quite a lot of that in my life! Yes to peace! Yes to wholeness! Yes to prosperity! And as my boys are soon to finish school for the summer, yes to some times of tranquillity in the weeks ahead!
So my friends, Shalom, Shalom to you and your household!
I’ve been feeling rather undone by Christmas this year. As I listen to carols playing I have found tears easily springing to my eyes. The familiar words so joyous, so glad have been wrecking havoc on my spirit. You see this year I got a little broken, my heart’s a little more fragile, a little more vulnerable. Grief has visited. Worry and fear have oft crouched at my door.
But my tears aren’t in sadness. They are a response to a deeper awareness of my need for Emmanuel – God with us. That I need the Prince of Peace in my every day living, all my days. The carols remind me, remind us of the hope, the joy, peace and love that is found in Christ. And as the carols sing of the promise of Jesus, I know that we live in the reality of that promise. That God is with us. That Jesus has come.
This year may have held its hard days, but they were not dark. For the promised Light of the World shone His light into my darkness. Brought joy when mine was gone. Jesus has displaced fear with His love, despair with His hope and left peace where there should have been none.
So while I may continue being a little teary this Christmas it is only because my heart is joining with the angels declaring “Glory to God in the highest!”
The roads were busy. Road works seemingly everywhere. Everything just felt busy. People driving to work, to appointments, to coffee, to wherever. My to do list felt as long as the traffic queued in front of me. The city was alive, on the go, and yes busy.
Yet in a central suburb is an oasis, a different world. A park, a farm. Where new lambs had been born and daffodils were tilting their faces to the sun. Where people gathered and lingered over coffee, or went for a stroll or just simply sat in the sun. In amongst the busyness it was a place of serenity, of peace. A space away from the noise and urgency of the city that lay outside its stone walls.
Life is busy. There’s always something to be done, an email to be sent, someone to call, an appointment to make, chores to be done. But in amongst this busyness we all need a stone wall behind which there is a space to rest, to recharge. That counter balance to our work where we turn aside from our agendas and pressures. That place and time of quiet retreat to recenter our soul, to refresh our spirit.
That rest. That Sabbath.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The room was gloomy in the morning. Like a blanket the gloom slipped over me too. Everything felt dreary and depressing. The luminous colour of life had gone. Dullness left in its place. But then I opened the curtains and the early morning sun and light blazed in. The sunlight outside beckoning joy and life. Colour returned.
I am reminded of the saying “Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind.” I let the rays of sunlight warm my face, but more importantly I turned my soul towards Jesus. Circumstances didn’t change, but I was strengthened by His grace, the shadows of life that threatened to overwhelm fell behind. .
Colour returned to the world around me. Indeed life returned.
“You called, you cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkled, you blazed, you drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath and I pant for you.” (St Augustine)
Peace. Love. Joy. Hope. The themes of Advent. This is the promise of Christmas. Through Jesus we have access to a peace that passes understanding, a hope that is secure, joy that is rooted in God and the unconditional love of the Father. All beautifully interlinked. This is why Christmas is something to celebrate.
The enemy seeks to rob us of our joy and peace, hope then becomes vulnerable and fledgling. During this time of Advent we have the opportunity to put joy, hope, love and peace front and centre in our lives. To remember that whatever we are going through the Christmas Promise is that God loved us so much that He sent His son to our world. With Him came His abiding presence, His rest, His redemption, His love. With the birth of Jesus came new hope, peace, joy and love.
This Christmas may the peace, the love, the joy and the hope of Jesus be with you.