PEACE is the theme of our next two weeks of Advent. It seems fitting, as this is often one of the busiest weeks of December. School Christmas play-acts and concerts, finalise programmes of family and food for Christmas get-togethers, shopping for endowments to give to educators at class parties next week…
It’s in the midst of the chaos that we’re invited to take part in dwell on peace. And as I’ve thought about it over the past few weeks, you know what I’ve recognized?
Peace doesn’t ever seem the way we think it “should”
One of my favorite Christmas songs about peace is “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. It references the wrong in our lives and in our world, then turns and extol God’s glory and power and overwhelming peace.
But I’ve ever had an issue with this song: the usually sung tune for it is route too happy .
How can you sing “All ye beneath life’s crushing load, whose kinds are bending low, who toil along the climbing lane with pain stairs and slow” in a cheerful, lilting tune? Yes eventually the lyrics turn, but…
We need to stop and allow ourselves to feel the ache before we can truly appreciate the promise of peace. And often, that peace will end up surprising us in how it’s packaged .</ strong>
The idea of becoming a hermit in our house and totally avoiding all of the busyness of December does sound appealing and peaceful. But for the majority of us, it can never be a reality. And we don’t inevitably want it to be! When we’re actually at our extended family Christmas parties playing games and feeing cookies, or opening gifts with our kids on Christmas morning, we relish the moment and are bursting with exultation and happiness.
It’s the preparation for the event that is painful.
What would it look like if, over the next two weeks, instead of grumbling to your best friend about how busy the season is, and sighing with disdain and exasperation, and vowing next year will be different — what if you did this 😛 TAGEND
1. Stand in front of your calendar. Or your to-do list.
( I have both. And both on paper and on my phone. I’m quite the list maker .)
2. Seem at them. REALLY look at them.
And say out loud, “YES. THIS IS OVERWHELMING. THIS IS STRESSFUL. THIS IS BUSY.” Acknowledge it. Name it. Don’t be afraid of the chaos and the sorenes and the stress all the activities will cause you to experience. You’re not likely to cancel any of these upcoming activities.
3. Seem at them again.
And see and hear the people involved in each one.
See your kids standing on that stage at school, dressed in their Christmas finest( or stable animal clothing ), belting out “Jingle Bells” or “Away in a Manger”( or merely hiding their face behind their hands, because come on — that’s cute in its own route ).
Hear your sister’s laugh as you share a drink or a cookie.
See your friend’s eyes light up as she opens an adorable endowment that you picked out just for her.
Hear the organ or piano or electric guitar playing “Joy to the World” at the Christmas Eve service.
4. And make a choice.
You truly do have a choice. Will you stay in your desperation, toiling with painful stairs? Playing the part of the martyr who is just so busy this season? Or will you actually make an effort to turn it around, appreciate the exuberance that will happen because of the busyness, and realize that this season will soon be over and you don’t want to miss it ??
5. Refuse to complain to others.
I think this is the trickiest part of all. It’s SO EASY to get into those discussions with pals and family about the calendar and to-do list this time of year. To commiserate and grumble together. But what if your attitude during those conversations was different? What if a simple “Yes, isn’t it busy? We eventually put up our tree yesterday! But wow my toddler’s face when we turned on those illuminates … So adorable, I’ll never forget it! ”
Imagine how that could change the tint of your conversation.
Peace seems elusive this time of year. But I think it’s because we have it packaged all wrong. We think peace needs to be the fact that there is chaos and interference. While those mornings with a cup of coffee next to the quiet Christmas tree are beautiful and peaceful, that’s not the only day peace can appear in December.
Peace comes where reference is take a step back from the urgency and interference of an individual situation and instead look at the big picture. The chaos will not last forever .</ strong> Tilt < em> into these busy activities for a season, knowing they are amazing gifts this time of year. Acknowledge the stress, but don’t stay there .</ strong>
A couple of years ago my husband took the lyrics to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and set it to a different, more fitting tune — Fernando Ortega’s “Our Great God”. The best part? He also included the refrain in the peace agreements. It attains the lyrics pop so much more.
All ye beneath life’s crushing load, whose shapes are bending low
Who drudgery along the clambering lane with pain stairs and slow
Seem now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing!
Oh remainder beside the exhausted road, and hear the angels sing:
Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!
Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!
If the angels could speak of God’s goodness and peace in the midst of the upheaval in countries around the world that day, so can we.
( Another Christmas song about hopelessnes and peace with a tune that I don’t think fits the lyrics is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” This version by Casting Crowns has become one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs .)
“It is good for people to eat, drinking, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their plenty in life.” -Ecclesiastes 5:18 NLT