Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent: Peace on Earth

My family is having Christmas week more than Christmas day.  We had roast chicken and baked potatoes last night and opened most of our presents, and we've flown into Seattle today so that tomorrow night my sister and I can sing with our old church's youth choir in the 11 PM service.  We'll open the rest of the gifts on Christmas day and then have dinner with extended family downtown, then my parents and I will fly home on the 26th (my sister is on a secret mission that requires she stay in the area for a few more days).

My relationship with parts of my extended family is complicated, and all of this travelling and confusion has led to some internal chaos, and so here I am writing about peace while rather stressed.  How fun.


A lot of things come to mind with the word "peace".  I'm a pacifist-in-training*, so peace is a world where people put aside their differences and choose understanding and imagination over violence.  I'm a tall, large-ish woman with some self-esteem issues, so peace is being comfortable with my body as my weight fluctuates.  I'm an introvert, so peace is spending time with just my partner or completely alone, when I can take time and recharge after being surrounded by people.

What I do know, whatever image comes to mind, is that peace is not passive.

In this culture, I have to fight for my right to be left alone when I need it.

I have to work hard to train my mind to see my beauty, not my fleshy rolls which make me feel so uncomfortable.

I have to get more creative in my problem-solving when I eliminate violence as an option in confronting or opposing injustice.

Peace is not merely an absence of war and turmoil.  It must be a conscious choice made over and over again.  It is a hard choice.  I believe it's a necessary choice.

Peace is the fourth and final candle on the Advent wreath before Christmas Eve/Day.  We've been hoping for a better future, loving our neighbors (and, ideally, our enemies), and finding moments of joy in our lives.  Now, we seek peace, and it can be found in hope, love, and joy.  Just as you can find joy through hope, love through joy, and hope through love.

Advent is about anticipating the coming of someone who both embodied and taught hope, joy, love, and peace, so that others may do the same, and it would spread until the whole world was enveloped in that active, teeming Goodness.

May the year following this Christmas, and each year following, bring us more hope, more joy, more love, and more peace.  Merry Christmas and God bless you all.

*Pacifism requires a certain discipline of thought that I'm working on.  If you're interested in pacifism as a specific political choice, check out this interview on Rachel Held Evans' blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent: Joy to the World

I'm home for the holidays!  I've been waking up in my own bed, scrambling eggs while looking out at the bay, and playing lots and lots of Skyrim.  It's wonderful.

I've also managed to get the Advent order wrong, which I discovered in church this morning when the speaker said "On this day, the third Sunday of Advent, we light the candle of Love."  Shoot.  Well, I'll have to make up for that by talking about joy today, which is what I should have done last week.


It's hard to talk about joy right now.  Last week there were two mass shootings, one of which left twenty young children dead (my mother gasped that "they were just babies").  The weekend has been dominated by conversations about mental illness and fights about gun control.  More generally, many people are still jobless and may not be able to give their kids a holiday experience they think they should have.  Life doesn't stop just because a holiday happens.

But I think it's good to talk about joy, especially because there's so much crap in the world.

Joy is waking up to see the sun shining through your window, or hearing rain hitting your roof after a drought, or seeing the first flakes of snow.

Joy is being wrapped up in the arms of someone who loves you.

Joy is finally getting hired.

Joy is the cancer going away.

Joy is hearing the first cries of your child after hours of effort.

Life is not made up entirely of joy, but joy is what makes life worth living.  When we have those moments, it keeps the darkness at bay.

Christians and 50s crooners sing "Joy to the World, the Lord is come".  What we celebrate during Christmas is the arrival of the Divine incarnate.  The birth of this little Jewish boy who will grow up to teach love and forgiveness in a culture which abided by the Hammurabi Code of eye for an eye.  This poor kid who would go from being a carpenter to spreading the message that the last would be first, the first would be last, and that the ideal world is not one of hierarchy but equality and justice.  That's something worth celebrating.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent: All You Need is Love

Today is when Christians everywhere light the candle of Love.  Growing up, this was the one pink candle on the wreath, but the church my family attended in Washington was weird and didn't do that and lit another purple candle and it threw us off and-

Anyway.  Back to reflection.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent: Hopin' and Prayin'

For those who don't know, today marks the first day of Advent season in the Christian tradition.  Advent is the period leading up to Christmas, when we await the birth (or "advent") of Christ.  My family and the churches we've attended mark this time by lighting candles mounted on a wreath, with a new candle each Sunday accompanied by a reading and a reflection.

I'm not home for Advent this year and I don't have a wreath, but I thought it would be nice to use my blog this month as a place for happiness leading up to my favorite holiday evar.  Get some holiday cheer up in here.

So without further ado, let's get this Advent thing going!