Hope, love, joy, peace – these are the themes of Advent. Those four words hold so much meaning and depth. Beautiful, powerful words that in many ways have seemed scarce in our culture lately. Yet I choose to believe hope, love, joy, and peace are not idealistic beliefs that no longer apply. They are truth. We live in a world where God’s hope, love, joy, and peace sustain us today and will ultimately prevail.
It’s been hard to express or share hope in such a divisive and volatile political climate. To be honest, it’s been hard to find hope in our own yearly meeting, where it seems unity is short of impossible. And yet, hope does exist. I think too often my idea of hope is tied up closely with my “wishes.” If I can see a clear path to getting what I want, there is hope. However, I am reminded by history, circumstance, and scripture, that hope exists even in the darkest of nights where there is no way I can envision the future.
Although these days seem to hold so much disagreement, anger, frustration, and hurt – love is still here. Love is as close as a tender one-on-one conversation, where fear is kicked to the curb and we listen with humility to the heart of another. Love lives in the sharing of a new life. Ahhh, that sweet baby smell! Love is alive as we cling to one another in grief. Love renews us through the glimpses of blue sky in a seemingly endless gray Oregon fall/winter/spring. Love is active in prayer, in spending time with God’s word, in sharing how God is at work within and through us. Love is always present. Immanuel.
Joy – this one is always tricky for me, but even more so these days. How to express and live out joy when our news programs, Facebook feeds, and personal interactions these days feel overrun by tragedy and despair? If I share joy, will I be viewed as ignorant or uncaring? If I choose joy, am I running the risk of hurting others for whom joy does not seem to be a current option? In times like these I need to remember how I define joy: deep peace not dependent on circumstance. Sharing joy doesn’t mean glossing over the hard stuff and railroading those in grief with platitudes. Joy comes from believing God. God loves us. God is good all the time.
I’ve been saying for more than a year now that I find peace at my home/property on Tangen. But during our Bible study this fall I was challenged to reconsider. Maybe what I’ve been seeking (and finding) out here is tranquility. Although peace and tranquility are often associated with one another, they are not the same. Peace is not an escape from reality. I love being home, but when I leave it, I want peace to come with me. Respite and tranquility are helpful and necessary, but peace goes deeper. Peace in God is not dependent on me being able to be in the barn brushing Sequoia, curled up on the couch with my family, or standing in the pasture at sunset. What I truly desire is freedom in Christ. This season I seek peace that goes beyond the “safe” places and encourages me to trust in God’s most precious Gift wherever I am.
Since December of 1999, NFC has been my church home. You are my family. I desire for each one of you the fullness of God’s hope, love, joy, and peace. May we continue together to seek God’s heart.