Breakfasts and brunches with Santa, wrapping Christmas gifts for outreach agencies, basketball and hockey games, homework and chores, travel plans and family gatherings. The weekends leading up to Christmas are brimming with excitement and maybe a hint of exhaustion.
On Sunday morning, after a few unexpected changes to my carefully planned schedule, I found myself feeling a little out of sorts as I headed into Children’s Chapel to share a message about peace, the focus of the second Sunday of Advent.
We read Mary’s song of praise in the first chapter of Luke. I asked them what they knew about the Christmas story, and what life was like when Jesus was born. They know about the shepherds and wise men, the star and the angels. Our fifth and sixth graders know that life was harder for women in those days. In fact, they know that life was hard for many people under Roman rule at the time. Despite the challenges Mary knew, when she hears she will give birth to God’s son, she sings a song: “for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
In the midst of hard things, Mary has found peace. Peace that comes from knowing that God is with her. God is good. And that God so loves the world, God becomes human, arriving on earth as a tiny infant.
When I asked if anyone had ever had hard things happen in their own lives, every hand went up. I asked them to close their eyes for a moment, breathe deeply, think about the good things that they are grateful for, and to notice the wellspring of peace, a gift of the Spirit that dwells within us all.
Later, I sat in my office and read through some of the journals children had written in class about where Christ brings peace, both then and now. My heart swelled as I read that they find peace today in still places, at church, in forgiveness, and with loved ones. They paraphrased Mary’s song to describe the peace that Jesus brought to a hurting world: “God is strong. God cares for the poor. God feeds the hungry. God cares for God’s people.”
May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you this Advent and always.