Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Calm of Advent

I know the “holiday season” is supposed to be a busy time. All the decorating and shopping and cooking and concerts and parties normally make people hurried and harried. Yet it doesn’t feel hectic to me. It feels calm. It feels like I am in the eye of a storm. Society twists in circles while I enjoy peace at the center.

Perhaps it is because we started off the holidays with a quieter than normal Thanksgiving. Due to COVID my wife and I were alone on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in our lives. The virus symptoms had passed, but we still could have been contagious. For that reason we played it safe and stayed home to protect our family. Even though we wish we could have been with family, it turned out to be one of the most restful Thanksgivings we have ever had.

Thanksgiving Day set the tone for first Sunday of Advent a few days later. On that Sunday morning we attended a beautiful “Hanging of the Greens” at our church. Nothing centers the soul like singing contemplative hymns such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

Then there is the cold weather. There has not been much snow, but the rain and strong winds have kept us inside more than normal. So we fired up our woodstove for the first time this season and have enjoyed the mesmerizing flames viewed through the glass front of our J√łtul. It felt like we were in our very own Christmas card.

Lastly there is the spiritual dimension of the season. Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. My attention naturally returns to the Holy of Holies within my soul. In the Bible the Spirit of God was said to occupy the innermost chamber of Jerusalem’s temple. I see the temple as symbolic of the human heart. As Stephen told the Sanhedrin, God does not dwell in temples built by hands. God dwells within us.

Peace is within. Regardless of what is happening around the world, the country, or in our lives, peace always abides at the center of the soul. On Christmas night the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace, goodwill to men.” The peaceable kingdom the herald angel proclaimed is not an external kingdom. There have been “wars and rumors of wars” continually during the 2000 years since Jesus’ birth.

Advent peace is inner peace. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” He promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Peace dwells in the heart. To enjoy that peace, all we have to do is look within.

People search for peace of mind all their lives. They work for peace in the world. They yearn for peace in relationships. The peace that people seek is already here. People are simply looking in the wrong places. Peace will never be found outside of ourselves. It dwells at the center of the human heart. That is where the Prince of Peace makes his home.

Perhaps that is why I like the symbolism of the evergreen wreath so much. We have three wreaths on the outside of our home. I have often made my own wreaths during Advent. A retired forester friend conducts a wreath-making workshop every year, and I often attend. 

The wreath reminds me of the eye of a storm. In the center of the wreath is empty space. Like the space above the Ark of the Covenant, that empty space is where God abides. For that reason the Christ candle is lit in the center of the Advent wreath. Christ is the center. If we want peace, that is where we find it.


Unknown said...

Dear Marshall: we all need to read and heed your blog today. One good thing abut my contrary leg problem is that I cannot go rushing about
Shopping. All my shopping this year has been done via catalogues in the calm of my apartment. I think of the final verse of “0 Little
Town of Bethlehem” “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today”.
Thanks again for giving us the right thought at the right time.

Ann Cady said...

As always your posts are so right on. I'm preparing my sermon for tomorrow and Peace is my focus. Peace within, stemming for me, from the hope that the Christ Child brings. I love quiet, unharried, Advent Seasons. God Bless Ann