“Why are you raising your voice at me mom?” These were the words I heard the first morning of Advent as my ten-year old sassily walked out the door to go to school. Not what I had in mind to start Advent this year. No…this year, as every other year, was going to be different. Peaceful sugar plums would dance in my head and I would be the mom who paused, reflected and all the sweet little kiddies of mine would sit “criss-cross applesauce” looking up at me as I read the first devotion in my brand new Advent devotional. We would share lots of peace-filled family discussions and would walk away feeling refreshed and prepared for Jesus.
Well, friends, this did not happen. How often is that the story of my mom life? If I have learned one thing from being a mom, it is this: The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps –Proverbs 16:9. I often have so many beautiful visions for how things will go when I “train them up in the way they should go” and my way is thwarted. Frustrations then ensue, I do something like raise my voice and I feel defeated. This…is exactly where the evil one would have us be, especially during the time of Advent, when we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of Christ, the promised Messiah. Nothing makes Satan more delighted than seeing my plans fail, my human frustration get the better of me and for the attention to be taken away from my teaching the Gospel to the little ones in faith. He loves to rob me of my peace. And no better way to do that than whining and sassing, all at the same time while I am chugging down my coffee that is lukewarm at best.
Not today, Satan. Oh, no…back to Advent I go!
One of my favorite traditions of the season is the lighting of the Advent Wreath. You can read more about that here. You can also read a really special post about preparing for Advent here from one member of my beloved writing tribe.
The first candle on the Advent Wreath is called the Prophets Candle of Hope. Lighting this candle serves as a reminder that the great visionaries of old, called prophets, predicted that a Savior would come, bringing the hope of salvation to people to rescue them from sin. In the time of the prophets, many people were self-reliant, going their own way while disregarding authority. History has shown us, that this has never worked out well. One story in the Old Testament helps illustrate such reliance on self, on letting pride and self-assurance get in the way of God’s healing and best plan for our lives.
The Old Testament book of 2 Kings tells of a man named Namaan. He held a very high position, a captain in a king’s army, but also had leprosy, a very painful debilitating and progressive skin disease that left its victims disfigured and ostracized from society, deemed “unclean.” There have been many parallels likening leprosy to sin due to its aggressive invasion of the body, which ultimately takes over and destroys.
One little captive servant girl child from Israel noted Namaan’s condition and recalled the healing powers of the prophet, Elisha. Telling Namaan’s wife about Elisha, this child was certain of God’s ability to heal through the prophet. For some reason, Namaan believed this little one and went to Elisha.
But look how Namaan approached the prophet: “So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots, and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper.’ “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.” -2 Kings 5: 9-12
He knew that he would be cleansed just for the asking. I mean, after all, he was of high position, he knew better, he was a leader and he deserved it. Why in the world would he dip seven times in a dirty river? Cray.
The next twist in the story comes when the ones who ultimately convince Namaan to do as the prophet says are his servants. “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant. The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.” -2 Kings 5: 13-16
Elisha simply replied, “Go in peace.” -2 Kings 5: 19
So, I circle back around to my son and his repeated disobedience and disrespect that led to my “mouthly mom demise” which was very “un-Elisha like”. Oh, how often my children are so very entitled in their requests! “Why shouldn’t you find my black Under Armour jacket immediately when I demand it?” “Why should I unload the dishwasher?” “And by the way, where are my shoes?” Then my son treats my own words of instruction and discipline much like Namaan treated Elisha’s words, with an ugly dose of entitlement. And, just like Namaan, the young little buck I used to hold so tenderly in my arms storms off in a rage at the very thought that he might have to play a part in his own growing up.
With the help of other adults, my village, if you will, eventually my son hears and he obeys. He puts away his own laundry, places his shoes in his designated shoe box and hangs that Under Armour jacket on its own little hook. Then he comes and offers me a hug and says thank you. And all of a sudden, I am struck by Elisha’s wholehearted, “Go in peace” reply. I deeply desire to be filled with this peace, this assurance that all is well, because…God. It is in these parting words from Elisha to Namaan where I find my springboard into Advent this year, my springboard of peace.
There is peace in the still waters of life, in the making-a-way time to sit in silence. There is peace in the glow beneath the Christmas tree lights, the laughter among friends and family, the eyes of my children when their dad and I set aside time for the five of us. There is peace in the solitude of my master bathroom when the three little beings try my last nerve. There is peace in a warm cup of coffee in the quiet of the early morning hours before all others have awoken. There is peace in the children’s Christmas musical, the choir’s cantata, the serving of the bread and the cup for the sacrament of Holy Communion. There is peace in painting pottery, in family fun runs, even in Grinch parties among friends. There is peace in early morning pavement pounding, late night Christmas gift wrapping with my love while a beloved Christmas movie is playing. There is peace in the setting up of the Nativity and the watching of the movie “Star” with my own kids and nephew. There is peace when sitting in the sun outside a local sandwich shop with soul friends. There is peace when receiving picture messages of my child sorting canned goods for those less fortunate. There is peace when I take a deep breath, walk into my living room and take in the beauty of the tree lights and pause before answering my demanding son…
There is peace in this season, even amidst my chaos, my noise and my feelings of frenzy as the kids rush out the door to school in the morning. The prophets of old had such deep peace because they had been chosen by God to share a message of hope. Guess what, so have we. My prayer for this season of Advent if to allow myself to find peace wherever I go and wherever I am. Only when I am able to live in peace, no matter my outward circumstances, am I truly able to have a heart prepared for the Peace Child himself. That is my prayer for you, too. Amen.