Bulletin for this reflection is available here: Bulletin-12-04-2022 YA
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38 *
*Note: Not RCL year A – Utilized in Generation to Generation: A Sactified Art Advent/Christmas curriculum, 2022) which the church I’m currently serving opted to utilized this year.
Let us pray: May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts guide our understanding, O Holy One. Nurture us we pray, as we grow into who you would fashion us to be. Amen.
Contemporary Mystic Cynthia Bourgeault wrote,
“The journey to the wellsprings of hope is really a journey toward the center, toward the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”
Every so often I have to be reminded that contemplative prayer is useful to allow us access to that which lies hidden in our souls. Messages from God, implanted in our very beings, are placed there for us to discover when we are most truly ourselves. Yet, how do we get there; especially if contemplative prayer isn’t our strong point? Last week, we began our Advent journey with the theme of Hope, lighting the candle of Hope. This week we travel deeper into Advent to discover Peace.
Where or how do you find your greatest peace? You heard some of our collective answers earlier. Whatever it may be, this time of year with Christmas – that is, the secular version – preparations and family gatherings on the horizon, it is often difficult to stop. Breathe peace.
For me, these final days of golden yellow-orange leaves falling daily to the ground for me to rake can sometimes be a doorway to that peace. Similarly, when the carols of the season begin to waft through the air, a corresponding light-heartedness creeps into my being, despite the daily challenges and occasional sorrows that try to intrude. I am convinced in those moments when peace is palpable, a window to our inner being is opened for a moment and the deep Shalom of God is kindled in our very souls. From there, if we let it, it can creep steadily through our whole body-beings, much like sunlight illuminating the hillsides to the west an inch at a time as it rises each day in this season of dark.
For all these I am grateful. Grateful to rest for a moment, if only brief moments at a time within the day, knowing that Christ’s peace always waits, eternally ready to bloom in us if we but pause to give it space. It waits; Christ waits; for our soul doorway to open. Then, if we are but open to it as Mary was open, our hearts, too fill with Emmanuel presence, God-with-us presence! This is the gift of Christmas! This is what we wait for in this season of Advent waiting! The filling of our cup.
It has been observed that artwork through the centuries depicts variously characterized Marian responses to the angel Gabriel – some fearful, some wondering, some demure and subservient, some assertive, even one with Mary and Gabriel talking together like old friends. But I wonder what it was really like for her – and what her internal response really was. What kind of deep attentiveness to peace must she have learned to practice to even be able to receive such a heavenly messenger and accept her God-given role? I can only imagine Mary knew and must have practiced regularly how to open her soul’s doorway and allow hopeful peace to enter in. How else could she have received the angel as she did, knowing the radical ramifications for her social standing in both her present and future family?
Bringing “The Annunciation” home to us, what kind of peace do we need as we search our own hearts for a place to let Christ’s peace be born again? That deep peace surpassing all understanding, all woes, all conflict and striving, all troubles and tribulations, all shifting comfort zones and lives that are astir with change? “Fear Not!” The angel said. We would do well to listen to this heavenly messenger’s voice: For no matter where you are in your journey of faith, this Advent Peace we anticipate is both the Advent of something new and the Christ Presence planted in, as Cynthia wrote, “the innermost ground of our being where we meet and are met by God.”
Here is a question for you to consider as we move to making art and fellowship together after worship today. Were you ever taught, in your journey of faith or life, how to find and rest in this Peace? How might we nurture this kind of peace in ourselves? How might we teach it and pass it on to those generations coming after us? In worship, yes, when we gather in this place to offer thanks and praise, confession and sorrow, supplication and a listening heart. In worship through the songs we sing, the bread we break, the cup we share. In worship when we hear our many storied scriptures spoken and reflect on, and enacting behaviors of hope, peace and justice woven through our every day to day. Use our fellowship time today to ponder with one another – and especially those not in your own generational cohort – the deeper things of God and how God has touched your lives and given you new life, new hope-filled peace.
I would be remiss if I did not point out the other side of this, Christ’s peace, we should bear in mind. Peace does not always equal serenity. In fact, sometimes it is serenity we seek, not God’s peace. The peace of God can also mean readiness to face hard trials, willingness to go against the grain, and yes, even the way of suffering, as Jesus showed us with his passion. He came that the power of death would be swallowed up; and a heavenly kin-dom be established. But this also means there is an unbreakable connection between the manger and the cross.
Standing firm in the Spirit of Truth that God has shown us in and through Christ, and in the integrity of our place as representatives of the House of God, means that we must live in Christ’s peace even when it is not easy and the world loves us not. Being filled with hopeful peace in the midst of tribulation is being firmly rooted in God, firmly growing the heavenly way, standing on the mountain of God and the valleys of Earth and holding our hands up to Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega, the righteous branch and the living tree.
Hope-filled Peace is also a bend in the road; Beginning the journey in hope, finding ourselves enveloped in God’s peace, we can continue on toward joy, knowing that somehow in the mystery of God, we become leaders and guides along a road less taken in these days; and eventual partakers in the heavenly banquet to which we are called. Behold! The time is coming and has now come:
When the mountains and valleys are silent,
When the waters before you lay still,
The Voice of Creation will whisper:
“Listen with all of your will.”
Around you the wind will murmur,
A freshness from silvery air.
The Breath of the Wind is an answer,
To long unspoken prayer.
 Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Lanham, MD: Rowland & Littlefield, 2001).
 Cynthia Rigby, “Theological Perspective, Luke 1:26-38” in Feasting on the Word, Year B (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).
 Scott Crane, “Breath of the Wind,” Poem. Accessed 12/1/2022, https://scottrick.me/poetry/.