Sunday, December 23, 2012

Finding Peace

He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.” (Micah 5:3-4)

One of the greatest joys of my priesthood is when I get a phone call from a couple that I have recently married and hear the wonderful news that they are expecting a baby. They are joyful yet cautiously nervous because while they are thrilled that a child is on the way, they are uncertain of what the future might bring. This is where we find ourselves today just two days away from Christmas. We are joyfully expecting the birth of our Savior, but we are nervous about obligations and family dinners and last minute shopping and gift wrapping and making sure everything will be ready for Christmas. I could’ve made that last sentence longer and added more things to the Christmas to-do list, but I just wanted to underscore that we get too anxious for such a wonderful holiday. We get so worked up that when Christmas morning greets us, we lack the peace that surrounded Bethlehem on that holy night. So that is what we should pray for these last two days of Advent: peace.

I’m not talking about peace on earth. I’m talking about interior peace; that peace that penetrates our hearts and makes its presence felt by all those who come near us. We have all been in the presence of a person who radiates peace. Why can’t we be that person? The Virgin Mary was the bearer of Peace himself when she arrived at Elizabeth’s home. She greeted Elizabeth and that greeting, that peace, that Presence she carried in her womb made Elizabeth’s unborn child leap for joy. Both Mary and Elizabeth were blessed by God on high and carried remarkable children who would transform the world. They rejoiced in their blessings. Do we? Have we taken the time this busy season to count the great things the Almighty has done for us? Do we consider ourselves blessed like Elizabeth and Mary did?

Since the beginning of Advent, I’ve been talking about the things that distract us from what is truly important this Christmas. We work so hard to make each Christmas so special for our families, which is admirable, but at what cost? If we approach Christmas with a prayerful and peaceful spirit, we will give our families far more than anything we will find under the tree. This Child has come to shepherd us. He has come to lead us from darkness to light. Prepare his way, for he has come to bring us a gift that is fleeting: the gift of peace. As the prophet Micah tells us: he shall be peace. May that peace overwhelm us the next few days so that we may welcome this child and share his peace with the world.