Advent is here.
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” (Psalm 122: 8)
Advent is one of the intense seasons of life, especially if you lead a congregation or any people of faith. The practice of ministry required by congregational leadership takes tremendous focus and improvisation for an entire month to be fully present to the strange mix of gift and demand that is Advent.
Think about it. Leading the people of God requires all this and more:
+ inviting them into the mystery, beauty, and the holy depths of this season through carefully crafted worship and preaching;
+ keeping tension with all the daily grind of the news cycle, sorting out that which must have our attention and that which can pass along;
+ staving off the pressures to just consume more things, rather than wait in the imperfectability of life;
+ attending to the many griefs that arise through the holiday season – both the losses of loved ones past and the losses of dreams for how things might have been; all these griefs seem to tumble out in this season of waiting.
How do we find peace within?
Here are some things – which are not things at all – that I need to experience and to invite peace within this Advent season. I share them in solidarity with you, friends and ministers, that you might also lean into that which nurtures peace in your soul.
As days draw shorter, and darkness, lit only by moon and stars, fills up the hours of the day, I need, even crave, the physical energy that emanates from fire, electricity, the sun.
Yet, as my friend and fellow church member Beth Ritter-Conn reminded my congregation on Sunday, light and dark as binaries, opposites, and counterweights have been used to accomplish great harm. The use of “light” and “dark” are employed in constructing “race,” portraying ignorance, and extending the power of already powerful people.
So we cannot speak of light in some uncritical way, and yet we also must speak of light as both material and metaphorical realities. Light is a source of life. Without the sun, we perish. Light is the literal source of illumination without which, we cannot see.
I’ve chased light throughout other seasons. And this year in Advent, I am seeking light from the fire in my hearth, even while seeking to share warmth with people who have no hearth of their own. I am seeking illumination to write and to plan, and my planning is not just for my own benefit but in the service of students, friends, ministers, and colleagues.
My need for light is embodied in my agreement with my family that we put up just one tree (pre-lit) with not even one ornament. We got out the Advent box, and we placed single candles in each window. We will add a wreath to the front porch when we find it. But these choices to keep life and expectations simple. They help me focus on light that will nourish my sense of peace this season.
I also need silence, simplicity and sabbath rest. I will journal and share about those in coming days.
What is nourishing you in your practice of ministry this Advent? What will open the possibility of peace within?
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