Advent 1: Peace – Neil Kaarsemaker
We often describe life as a journey. Probably best described as a series of journeys. With most journeys, there are way stations and milestones along the way that demarcate the distance we have travelled and help refocus us for the road ahead. The Christmas season is one of those way stations. It provides a demarcation point to a year of journeying. Advent is the off-ramp to this way station that forces us to reduce our speed and refocus our gaze from the intensity of our journey on the open road. As we reduce speed, emotionally and physically, our mind becomes more open and receptive to God’s teaching that surrounds us, like road signs on that metaphorical off-ramp. We read the words in Isaiah 40 of peace and comfort, of a straight highway prepared in the desert for our God. Of valleys lifted up and mountains and hills made low. That uneven ground is made level and rough terrain made smooth. This brings to our mind images of a dangerous icy winter highway made clear and dry by the warming hand of God. Of dark curves made straight and steep snow covered hills stretched out and cleared before us making our life journey safer and less threatening. Miraculous and marvellous things. In Advent, we are reminded that the coming of Messiah and Christ to earth at Christmas heralds a new era in the relationship between God and humankind. He brings forgiveness, redemption and a new closeness with God. For each of us, the journey of life brings obstacles and barriers that slow our progress, bring the risk of harm and uncertainty of what lies around the next corner.
My own journey has had it’s share of barriers, obstacles, dangers and uncertainties this year. Through the deceleration of Advent, I am reminded of the presence of the Holy Spirit that walks with me, the Christmas gift of Christ that keeps on giving. The Spirit’s voice speaks to me words of wisdom, warning, calm, encouragement and admonishing. It speaks in whispers and in shouts. It surrounds me like a warm sweater, or a good friend’s embrace. The voice of Christ in the Spirit reminds me of that His birth ultimately brought redemption and peace, comfort and joy to my journeys. I can walk with confidence, expectancy, even boldness, when the ground become rough and the hills steep or the valleys deep. He smooths the road before me. All things become possible because we walk with the creator, the divine, the all-powerful God, who walks with us knows the path that lies ahead. These messages soothe and inspire us as we approach the way station and milestone of Christmas. We are mindful that soon we will merge back onto the open road of our life journey. Renewed, refreshed and rejuvenated. Glory to God in the highest. The Christ has come.