Peace from Labor — Peace of Advent

Scripture Focus: Revelation 14.13
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

Reflection: Peace from Labor — Peace of Advent
By Erin Newton

My kids have been impatiently waiting to open gifts. As a mischievous parent, I wrap small gifts inside large boxes. The kids imagine typically impossible items inside: cars, animals, rockets, etc. Part of the joke is their look of disappointment when they open the box to find a vast amount of empty space inside. In reality, the small gift is always very valuable.

This week has been a focus on how Jesus’ birth as a baby not only changed the course of history, but it upset the Jews’ expectations.

Within the vision of saints’ suffering in Revelation, there comes to us a new beatitude. We are familiar with Jesus’ words that it was blessed to be poor, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure, peaceful and persecuted. But the grand finale of blessedness is revealed: the blessedness of martyrdom. For those who die for the Lord are at peace from all labor.

If we take a moment to imagine the tension in which the New Testament opens, it is not an atmosphere of positivity. There is no “all-American determination” that they will somehow pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There is certainly no hope that the next leader of Rome is going to provide means to make life more comfortable. The people were often already poor, hungry, and mournful. Jesus is born as one of them.

It is easy to expect Jesus to be something he is not. Or maybe we expect him to act for us in a way that has been answered “no” for now. Even though Jesus calls it blessed, being poor or persecuted or hungry is exhausting. How can we have peace in that? We fight the good fight, finish the race, and rest from all labor.

Jesus changes our world in ways that we sometimes cannot see or understand. We can forfeit peace and strive to change what is happening or we can recognize that even the infant Savior works in ways unseen. The hymn, “What Child is This?” speaks to the unexpected form of our Savior. Good Christians, fear, for sinners here / the silent Word is pleading. His labor of love never ceases, we rest in Him.

The day will come when all our toil and labor will cease. The peace of advent is knowing how blessed it is to toil and labor each day for his glory until he calls us home.

Music: “What Child Is This,” recording, Josh Garrels, 2016

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 27-28 (Listen – 7:27)
Revelation 14 (Listen – 3:51)

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From Silence, Peace :: Peace of Advent

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Scripture Focus: Revelation 14.12
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

Matthew 23.39
For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Reflection: From Silence, Peace :: Peace of Advent
By John Tillman

Israel’s God was a speaking God. He spoke regularly and directly through his prophets. He did not speak in vague generalities but mandated specific actions. He did not only speak to nations and peoples, but personally to individuals. But Israel repeatedly ignored his words, scorned his pleas, and even his punishments. 

And God went dark. 
He snuffed the light. 
He dried up the prophets’ voices. 

The people suffered exile, slavery, and silence. Israel waited for her messiah not in literal darkness, but in the darkness of a continual silence from God. 

Cracks in that silence began to rumble in the Temple when Gabriel announced to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist. Another foreshock rattled the town of Nazareth when Heli’s daughter, Mary, reported an angelic visitation. More foreshocks of the earthquakes to come.

Even when the Glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds and the angels appeared proclaiming peace on Earth and their song invaded the night sky, it was only an announcement. It was the invitation, not the party.

The God who turned his back, came back. He came to speak peace to the people who had chosen death instead of life and suffering instead of blessing.

We need the silence, the darkness, the waiting of Advent. 

We need this time to turn off the noise of our self-reliance and to sit in silence listening for God’s words of life. We need the weight of darkness to press out of us all hope of saving ourselves by our own wisdom, strength, wealth, or power. Only when we sit in darkness long enough can we lose the illusion that there is light in ourselves that can lead us anywhere other than deeper into the dark.

In this last week, as we celebrate the peace of Advent, take time to slow down and seek peaceful moments to separate from the seasonal clutter of noise and light and sit with darkness and silence for awhile, seeking God.

May we not wait for God to raise his voice in desperation over the ruckus of our lives to get our attention.
Seek silence and darkness for a time, so that you can meditate and wait to hear his intimate voice and feel the light of his peaceful presence.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 27 (Listen -1:28) 
2 Chronicles 28 (Listen -4:59) 
Revelation 14 (Listen -3:51)

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