Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” –John 14:27
There are two seasons taking place right now. Both are filled with hope and expectation. Both have music and candles and sparkling lights. Both seasons are building up to December 25th. One is the Holy Season of Advent, the other is the Christmas Shopping Season.
We live in both seasons at once, but they are not the same. The Christmas Shopping Season is an anxious place. It is anxious because everything about it all depends on you. You have to buy the presents. You have to go to the party. You have to send the cards. You have to cook the food and hang the lights. You have to pay the bills. You have to make sure not to forget anyone. If you mess up, people will get their feelings hurt. Will you have enough time, enough energy, enough money?
Advent, on the other hand, is a peaceful place. It is peaceful because none of it depends on you. Christ came, and you can’t change that. Christ is coming again no matter what you do or don’t do. You can participate by choosing to pray for his grace, by choosing to keep your eyes open. But whether you choose to stay alert or not, he is likely to interrupt your life.
You and I experience two seasons at once. We live in Advent and the Christmas Shopping Season. By God’s grace, we can focus on one more than another. We can set aside a little anxiety today and ask for a little more peace. We can choose to turn our attention to the coming Christ rather than the coming crisis, even just for a moment. Perhaps, a little at a time, we may find ourselves living for a minute or an hour or even a full day completely in the Holy Season.
Henri Nouwen, one of my personal heroes, wrote a prayer that I would like to share with you. I commend it to your use in midst of these seasons.
An Advent Prayer
by Henri Nouwen
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do, seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things, look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways, long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy, seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking light.
To you we say,
Come Lord Jesus…. Amen.
Thomas McKenzie is the author of The Anglican Way, a book he describes as a traveler’s guide to the Anglican tradition, as well as The Harpooner, an Advent reader featuring harpoons—how awesome is that. He graduated from the University of Texas and attended seminary at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1998 and planted the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville in 2004, where he is the still pastor. He’s also keeps samurai swords in his office, and wears a skull ring.