Surprising Gifts, Guest Contributor Katherine Mulhern
In a world of Amazon Prime, One-Click shopping, when anything or everything in the world (it seems) can be snatched from the internet only to arrive at our doorstep in two days, what in the world can do we do with this Advent “waiting” thing? As a people, we are more than a little uncomfortable with waiting of any kind (or length), much less waiting for four weeks (or in the case of this year – three weeks and two days)! And yet they arrive – these four Sundays in Advent – in slow motion succession. Hope. Peace. Love. Joy.
These are the gifts we cannot order from Amazon. Not ever. Sometimes they are gifts that we choose to grab onto for dear life. Other times they are gifts that simply find us, surprising us when we most need them. For me, the Advent gift of Peace lives in both those categories.
In these days when the news is full of tear gas and migrant children still separated from their parents, journalists murdered and newscasters battling for “truth,” I find myself clinging to every shred of peace I can find. I am spending hours in my sewing room, surrounding myself with beautiful fabric and the familiar hum of my sewing machine. There is peace there. The world is blanketed in snow, the neighborhood is quiet, and (for a little while) there is peace in my soul. I treasure this time of peace, and cling to it like a lifeline. It is holy sanctuary.
Yet, we all know that there can be no peace until there is peace for all God’s children. Peace for the least and the last. Peace for the widow and the orphan. Peace for the ones who have no peace. Peace for those we think of as our enemies. Peace for the Christian, the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Sikh, the person who has no faith tradition. Peace for the gay men and the lesbian women, for the transgender community and – yes - even for the ultra right nationalists. Peace that enfolds us all and becomes the ground on which we all stand – together. Holy peace that transforms us all.
This kind of peace drives us out of our places of sanctuary and into the world that is so fractured with hatred and violence and fear and blame that it is hard to know what could be done to set it right. This peace beckons us to raise our voices and plant our bodies in places like domestic violence shelters and food pantries and prisons. This vision of peace calls us to stand in solidarity with all those who are victimized by violence and hatred. This is a peace that fills the night sky with angels, drawing lowly shepherds and royal magi to the same cradle – united by awe and wonder. This is a peace that surprises us all.
This holy peace is a gift from God, and all we need to do is open our eyes and our hearts and our ears in order to know that it waits for us just around the corner. From the prophets to the psalmists to the pages of the New Testament, we hear the trumpet sounding. Peace! It comes riding on the back of a donkey – full of humility. Peace! It comes from the least expected place on earth – Nazareth. Peace! It comes from Mary’s heart and Joseph’s courage and the shepherds’ awe and the wonder of the magi. Peace! It comes from you and me when we listen deeply for God’s holy whisper of invitation and turn to walk the path of the faithful who have gone before us. Peace! May it surprise you in this season of Advent. May it be the gift that transforms your life and our world in this time of turmoil.
Katherine Mulhern served churches in the United Church of Christ for 25 years - in Oskaloosa Iowa, in Davenport Iowa, and then on the staff of the Iowa Conference. In retirement Katherine quilts, plays with her grandkids, travels, hikes, volunteers in her church’s food pantry, marches for progressive causes, occasionally preaches, and is currently training to be a certified spiritual director. She's having the time of her life!