I am often amazed at my capacity for selfishness.
I find other words for it like absent-mindedness or busyness, but in the end it is all the same. I get caught up in my own little world and forget that anyone else around me might have their own stresses and difficulties in life.
I give so much emotional space to the things I am consumed with and the checklist of things to get done that I act and speak as if I am the only one who has stress in life. I miss out on important events in others lives and forget to even check in when other people have stressful days and moments.
For me, this Advent is all about making room for Jesus. I want to focus on the places I squeeze God out, or try to pretend God is not a part of, or fill with other things. And what I find is the areas I have not made room for God make me feel anxious and stressed. And the more anxious and stressed I make less room for people.
It is a vicious cycle.
Advent is the season we recognize God being with us. We celebrate the first coming of Christ as we anticipate the second, and begin to ask what it looks like for God to be with us in between.
So we begin with hope. The nature of hope is something much like the presence of God with us – it is now and not yet. And as we continue through Advent, we see how each of the weeks has a now/not yet experience.
We then turn to peace and joy. Peace and joy are internal realities which have outward manifestations. As we focus on the internal nature of peace and joy we find solidarity with Mary – we are now making room within us for Jesus.
Once we have made room, we then bring forth something into the world. When hope, peace and joy are made manifest, they look a lot like love. It is a beautiful movement.
This week we focus on peace. Peace can be a confusing idea because we associate it with things which aren’t really peace. We often think things like avoidance or comfort or even religious practices are signs of peace. But as our pastor said this week, peace can be found by the soldier in the midst of battle and can be missed by the monk at the altar.
Peace is an internal reality where we make room for Jesus. It is not dependent on circumstance, but it drives us towards resting in the presence of God with us.
When the world is falling apart around us, we can experience peace. We can have the assurance that we won’t be undone and we will make it through. But having this kind of peace takes real practice. Which is why we in Advent we make margins to create room for peace each year.
Making room for peace means we look at what squeezes out peace in our lives. It makes us ask questions about what causes stress and anxiety in our life. What is draining our emotional energy? Where do our minds go when they are at rest?
Am I concentrating my emotional efforts on things that matter? Or do I let my sense of comfort and self-importance take over and create anxieties I don’t really need?
What am I letting worry crowd out?
Who am I letting worry crowd out?
When we allow peace to make room for Jesus in our heart, we have to re-evaluate what takes up the space in our brains. When we have peace, we can have stress and even conflict without allowing it to rule our world.
And as we experience this inner peace, we begin to realize this peace is making room for others in our hearts. We begin to see the people we have overlooked in our stress and selfishness.
And if you read the Romans passage this week, you will also find peace making room even for the difficult people as well.
But it starts with you. It starts with making room for Jesus in this season of Advent and allow him to show you the places you crowd Him out.
Because unless you have the inner peace of Jesus, you can never hope to bring peace to the world around you.
So this week, make some room for Jesus. Maybe it is a kind act for a difficult person, or checking in on a friend who you know is having a rough time. Or maybe it is just time alone with God.
Whatever you choose to do, actively pursue making room for peace in your life.