Daily Devotion - Monday, December 6, 2015

This is the first week of the season of Advent.  Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year.  We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath.  This week our theme is "Peace."  

I've had a lot of conversations lately with people who are deeply concerned about the seeming lack of peace in our world.  It feels like Darkness is working overtime this Advent season.    

Author and speaker Rachel Held Evans wrote about this yesterday in a Facebook post: 

This Advent seems darker than most. Our country seems overridden by hysteria, hate, racism, and fear, and I don't know what to do. Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility...

I couldn't agree more with Evans' assessment, and I completely echo her prayer. 

But all of the struggles going on around us in the world, are just one small part of our overall struggle to find peace, when it feels like peace isn't possible.  Along with the conversations I've been having with people about the troubles in our world, I've had just as many with people who are struggling to find peace in their own hearts.  

After both presentations of our annual Christmas concert last this weekend I shared sad moments with several of my church members and regulars, who are going through dark times during this season of light.  

While the rest of the place was buzzing with joy and energy from the great performance of the choirs, orchestra and vocalists--there were many people who barely hanging on, burdened with more than they could bear.  One woman, whose husband is facing life-threatening illnesses, shared her story, and, after telling it, simply held on to me at the door of the church and wept.

As I walked through the room where we were holding our after-concert reception, I wondered how many of us were hiding our fears and worries beneath our smiles, and sips of egg nog.  

Earlier that day after one of our worship services, I'd said something to another church member that I recalled as I made my way through the crowded room.  I told her, "I don't know why these bad things happen.  I don't know why we go through these valleys of shadow.  But I do know that God is with us.  God suffers with us. God mourns with us.  God knows what it is like to be us. Don't be afraid, God is with you now."  

One of the lectionary texts for this coming Sunday is Philippians 4:4-7.  It's an amazing passage, and I think I'll just end today by letting the Apostle Paul's words (words that were written while he was in prison) speak to us in our need. 

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


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