21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.[a]22 For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. 24 In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters,[b] there remain with God. 1 Corinthians 7:21-24
I visited the Holy Land this time last year, and now, I often envision Paul by the sea…in prison…at Caesarea. What strikes me is that Paul is in chains. Yet, Paul’s letters don’t sound like Paul is in chains. Paul has freedom despite the chains. Despite the chains, Paul is free.
Friends, this is the true freedom that is the gift of God. It is not the false freedom the world wants to possess. True freedom, despite our circumstance in the world, allows us to take a deep breath and choose to follow the One who creates, the One who redeems, and the One who encourages.
Holy God, may we embrace this precious freedom that comes at such a price. Send us the gift of your freedom and Holy Peace that sets us free…even when we live in the chains of the world.
(c) 2018 Rev. Lil Smith
Spiritual Director and Supervisor
Retreat House Spirituality Center
The first few days after Christmas can be a bit of a letdown. Some of us are exhausted from shopping, cooking, wrapping, and entertaining. Some of us poured our hearts into decorating our churches or carefully preparing the worship or music. The impact on our moods is predictable. It’s all over.
In our heads, we know the story never ends, but we might struggle with it in our hearts. We continue to remind ourselves throughout the church year that Jesus came, taught us, loved us, and died for us. The story is the same. It’s just the time of the year that changes.
This may be a good time to remind ourselves of the miracle of everyday living. There are days of wonder, but some days are colorless. Somedays we feel close to God; on other days, the awareness of God’s presence eludes us. Most days we just are called to be faithful and trusting, and that is enough.
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people”
Today we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, born so long ago, yet reborn in our hearts each Christmas. This is what makes Christmas a truly joyful and magical time.
Despite the tinsel, hurrying, parties and shopping and even moments of disappointment, loneliness, or sadness, there can be sweet moments this season when we can be assured that Jesus is alive today and his light is shining for each one of us.
For me this has happened in a variety of ways over the years: singing Silent Night in a New York country church while watching the first snowfall, watching the sun rise up over the mountains before anyone else was awake, spending Christmas day alone one year, but making it a day I will always fondly remember. Every Christmas there is always something, along with an awareness that Jesus is right beside me. All it takes are open hands and an open heart, and he will surprise us in ways that we will say, “it had to be him.”
Peace I leave you; My Peace I give to you. John 14:27
The gift of Peace was given to us by Jesus as He was preparing His followers to face life on earth without His physical body being present. It was a gift given to all of us who are His followers.
Peace in the scriptural sense is an English word translated from the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom was a common greeting during Jesus’ time.
Christ entered the world as the Prince of Peace. During Advent, as I strive to become the person God intended me to be, Peace is one of the avenues I will follow. I will endeavor to share the gift of Peace with all whom I encounter. Shalom!
. . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Any the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Everyone in our bustling modern world seems to be looking for peace. Perhaps the idea of “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil 4:7) appeals to many because they can’t even imagine a feeling of peace, much less the reality of a true peace. We long for a peace that our fallen world can’t even comprehend.
An unattributed quote made popular on the internet suggests that “peace is seeing a sunset and knowing who to thank.” That quote may have broad appeal because it implicitly addresses human longings which are so fundamental. God is knowable. God gives us good gifts. God is approachable enough that we can thank him for showing us his love.
This is a good time of year to remind ourselves that God made himself known to us… so we know who to thank. In that gratitude, we find peace.
How many times have we shared these calming words with those around us in our faith communities each week?
I know that Mary is struggling with a health matter to be resolved, John recently was laid off from his long time job, Doris lost her husband this year, and Michael is caring for his ailing mother. Jennifer is worried that her daughter isn’t going to be accepted at her desired university. Jack is concerned that he won’t be able to be at his son’s Christmas program due to work restraints.
What a gift we might give each other by reaching out in real time to offer our presence to listen, really listen to just one person not normally in our inner circle of family and friends. A gift of our time can be the most treasured gift of all. And it can help to bring a peace within us as well.
May the Peace of our Lord be with us in this Advent season and stay in our hearts and minds.