Pastoral Letter: December 3, 2021
"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. to guide our feet into the way of peace."
--Luke 1: 78-79--
There are many things about the Advent and Christmas seasons which are inherently peaceful. New fallen snow, a clear still night, a fire blazing in the fireplace and the quiet contentment on the desert side of a great feast. All of this is traditionally peaceful.
Life does not respect tradition.
Death does not take a holiday nor does strife, misery, or greed and these are all things which work together to threaten peacefulness and none of them really respect the seasons of Advent of Christmas.
This week in worship we celebrate the herald of the coming King. John the Baptizer claims that the King is coming and with him the Kingdom of Heaven. The one that prophets proclaim will be the Prince of Peace is on his way to greet us and John would have us flatten mountains, fill in valleys and make crooked ways straight to facilitate the King’s progress toward us.
The text for this pastoral letter comes from Zechariah’s prophecy given once his speech was returned to him after naming his son as the Angel Gabriel instructed. A prophecy which is less about his own beloved son and about than it is the King that his son has been born to proclaim.
John’s message of repentance reflects his father’s prophecy in the reference to God’s tender mercy and the light of the world that will guide our feet into the way of peace.
The message here is clear and maybe not entirely welcome.
Peace isn’t something that just happens to us.
Peace is a journey that we find ourselves on.
Peace is effort.
Those who have been journeying already have found that the way of peace is something that is difficult to find and once found, hard to maintain. So many crossroads on the way of peace invite us to turn our faces to vengeance, bitterness, envy, or despair. Only the light of the world, the Risen Son, can shed the light we need to keep to the way.
When we find the way difficult. God’s tender mercy shines that much brighter.
When other paths and their downward slope promise relief from our stumbling upward climb the grace of God keeps those paths in darkness.
Nowhere does the Baptizer or his father dictate that we cannot rest, that there is no Sabbath on the path of peace. And while having our feet guided into the way of peace does suggest movement it does not forbid simply standing or resting as often as one might have need to do so.
The peaceful path through Advent is short. The peaceful path through life is longer than our individual lifetimes. The peaceful path is present to be walked upon. Let the light of Christ guide you to it and find your journeying refreshing rather than taxing. Practice walking it now so that you may easily travel upon it later.
Arise and shine. Peace is here!
May God bless you, your homes, and families with peace this Advent Season!