Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent: Abundant Life in Heavenly Peace

Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard. Practice wellness.
Play with abandon. Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Continue to learn.
Appreciate your friends.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.
Mary Anne Radmacher

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
Author Unknown
Advent calls us to find peace in the midst of a busy life.

The two quotes above are on magnets next to each other on my refrigerator.  I have looked at them a few times recently and thought that it may not be a complete coincidence they are together.  There is a sense that we live our lives in the space between these two quotes. 

The first quote encourages us to do what Jesus said that he came to enable us to do—live life to the fullJohn 10:10. Like Jesus, Radmacher seems to be encouraging us to give all we have to this thing called life.  Be intentional… play hard… have no regrets… do what you love.  Live like this is all there is. 

Most of us live full lives; our schedule is often booked to overflowing. But a full life doesn’t necessarily mean we’re living life to the full.  We can do all that activity and feel tired and empty at the end of the day.  What’s the secret to doing all that full-throttle living and not ending up burnt out?

I think that’s where the second quote comes in.  This unknown author seems to be alluding to the same kind of peace that Jesus spoke of in John 14:27.  He spoke to his disciples about peace, even as the authorities were closing in, getting ready to arrest him and lead him off to trial and crucifixion. Jesus knew life was about to get difficult for his followers.  How could he possibly speak of peace in a time like this?!

I think the answer is that Jesus understood peace in a way the world generally doesn’t. The peace he spoke of didn’t depend on our external circumstances (absence of noise, trouble, or hard work) but rather the Presence of God—which is hidden within us no matter where we are or what we’re doing. 

When you think about it, that’s the story of Advent in a nutshell.  Jesus came and bought God’s Presence to a world full of a world full of noise, trouble, and hard work.  Jesus was God with us then, and continues to be God with us today.

In his book A Testament of Devotion, Quaker theologian Thomas Kelly writes: "This practice of continuous prayer in the Presence of God involves developing the habit of carrying on the mental life at two levels. At one level we are immersed in this world of time, of daily affairs. At the same time, but at a deeper level of our minds, we are in active relation with the Eternal Life."

Advent is a good time to reorient to this multi-level living that Kelly describes.  On the surface, we will no doubt be busier than ever this Christmas season. The secret to having peace in the midst of it is to actively engage that deeper level of our minds.  We do this every time we take a break from all the Holiday preparations to intentionally focus on the remarkable reality of Advent.

God the Creator sent Jesus to become one of the created, so he could experience solidarity with us and save us in every way a person can be saved. 

With this in mind, I would encourage you to immerse yourself once again in the old familiar stories of the season.  Try and experience them through the eyes of the characters—not knowing how things turn out.  See what new insights God might have for you this Advent Season. I hope you find abundant life in heavenly peace among your Christmas wrappings.

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