#Advent

Gift of Peace

In this Advent season, I watch, wait, for the coming of a new Peace. Emanuel. God with us. He will surely come. I know that he has come. Still, lately, the world seems to have descended into more than the usual amount of cruelty and chaos. But, peace is all around us, and I found it again, at one of my favorite places. A couple of times a month I bring my guitar and lead a sing-a-long at an assisted living complex in Costa Mesa. All of the residents are living with symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Today is a special day for my friends. A fresh, fragrant, unadorned Christmas tree occupies a corner of their large living room. They are excited and happy to see me. I strap on my guitar and begin… “Silver Bells”… (they echo). “Silver Bells”… and on and on… “Feliz Navidad”… “Feliz Navidad.” Infectious joy!  Ripe with Love!  They do not know that they have gifted me with a most precious peace. Or maybe they do!

by Nathaniel

Making Peace

”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)” As I am called to be a peacemaker this Advent,  I pray often for my former husband who left our marriage after thirty years. I determined early on that holding the anger and resentment and suffering only created more pain for myself and affected him not at all. I started by asking God to forgive him for me since I wasn’t ready yet for that step. I thanked the Lord for holding the space for me while I caught up and thanked him for holding my heart in His and for wiping my tears away with His love. It wasn’t an easy journey and I won’t say it doesn’t still hurt. But I discovered that a heart filled with gratitude, clarity and the love of the Lord heals injustice without blame or judgment. Divorce is excruciating. However, when I  pray for my ex to find peace in Christ and joy in knowing that he is a true son of God, my soul rests in peace.

by Gracie

 

Full of Grace

Today we turn our thoughts to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our spiritual mother, a woman whose life was all about grace. From the moment of her conception, she accepted the gift of grace freely given to her. It is the same grace offered to us each day as well. Mary’s life is not just dogmas of our church; she was a real person that is still very much present in our lives today. She never got ahead of God’s grace; she cooperated with it, knowing there would be sufficient amounts given for each day. This is the miracle and mystery of grace: we will always have all that we need. That simple thought fills me with peace. So now like Mary, we wait and ponder and ask the simple question, how will we birth the holy in our life this Advent season?

By Cathy

The Poor Next Door

Today the peace challenge is to take an inventory of my spiritual life. Where I feel most inadequate is in being able to physically help those in need. Since I have two small boys who need me every minute, time and travel is limited. I cannot leave American soil right now to visit even the closest impoverished areas of Mexico.  While this is often frustrating for me, I know that the poor are right next door to all of us if we but take the time to notice and reach out. Today I can be like St. Nicholas, who gave little gifts to those all around him. His selfless acts of love have continued to inspire people all over the world at this time of the year particularly. Following his lead, I will surprise someone with a small token of my love.  I will use my heart and my resources, like he did, to spread peace in any small way that I can.

by CMM

Paving the Way of Peace

In explaining why he chooses to hang out with the  “lowlifes” of his society, Jesus makes it very clear that people are not expendable, to be dismissed or shunned.  My large extended family is peppered with “lost” souls: the divorced cousin who drinks too much; the nephew who will be spending the holidays in prison; the cousin whose God is wealth.  While some of us roll our eyes and shake our heads at the mention of their names, Jesus says, “Let’s break bread. Be one as I am one.” (Note: not “let’s lecture”)!  So as the pregnant virgin from Galilee swells large with the second person of the Trinity growing in her womb, our helpless Baby King, I will try my best to “prepare the way of the Lord” in my heart, laying low the mountains of my judgment and filling in the valleys of my righteousness. With God’s help, I can pave the way for peace.

by Andrew

The Shoebox

Beginning when my children were small, we had an Advent tradition that lasted many years. I had a shoebox covered in wrapping paper, with a slit in the top. There was a gift tag on it that read “To Baby Jesus.” We kept it under our tree and my kids would write something good that they did each day and put it in the box as a “gift” for the Lord. This lasted until the youngest of the three was in her teens. Over the years the box became full but it was never opened. Then when I was packing to move to California, I found it and opened it. I sat in the attic, reading what they’d written, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. It was a difficult time for me but seeing that shoebox gave me a sense of peace because I knew in some small way, I raised my children with a sense of what the season was truly about.

by JAM

Advent Challenge

I recently heard a famous doctor say that we need more sleep than we realize. Like a doomsday preacher, he admonished everyone to get a minimum of eight hours per night and proclaimed that we can never make up for lost sleep. This was tough for me to hear because I have never been much of a sleeper and I doubt anything is about to change. Ironically, today is the First Sunday of Advent when the gospel of Mark warns us to “stay awake.” Mark is obviously not talking about physical sleep. Rather, he warns us about spiritual attentiveness or vigilance. From my perspective, this is a much more difficult challenge in a culture that seems to foster sleepwalking through stunning sunsets, stimulating conversations and the restorative powers of prayer. Our “busyness” causes not only loss of sleep but also inner peace. To be counter-cultural, I plan to take the 21 Days of Peace Practices challenge with our parish during Advent this year. Maybe I will sleep better if I put down the lists and get out from behind the screens to breathe in the peace of Christ. Won’t you join me?

Here’s the link: http://stedward.com/advent-2017/

by DC

An Advent Message

Last night I watched the movie “A Christmas Candle,” taken from the Max Lucado book. Once a year during Advent, the story tells of an angel coming to this rural village’s candle maker and blessing one of his candles, making it glow with God’s love. The person most in need in the community receives the candle and prays with it, asking God for divine help. Each time the prayer is answered, the town believes there has been a miracle performed. However, this time, when the angel comes and blesses the candle, the candlemaker trips and falls and loses the glowing candle under a cabinet. He and his wife decide to give all of their candles away and say that each is the blessed candle. The last Sunday of Advent, in the small church, the ruse is discovered. However, each member of the community stands up and shares how their prayers had been answered. So it wasn’t the candle but the prayers of petition and trust that God would answer them that created the miracles. Grateful and blessed by this reminder of God’s faithfulness!

by Gracie