Advent Week 2: PEACE

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Written by: Lindsay Wadsworth

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’” Luke 2:13-14

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Peace is the thing announced at Jesus’ arrival and what’s left with us when the Prince of Peace goes back to His heavenly throne.

Jesus brings it. Jesus gives it.

Like the great words of my very favourite carol, “His law is love and His gospel is peace.”

In a world that feels more fragmented than whole, fearful than tranquil, peace on earth feels like a pipe dream. It’s my struggle, maybe yours too, to find peace within myself - mind, body and soul - when I’m plagued with worry and too busy to rest. When life ‘does its thing’ and throws me for unexpected loops and turns.

It’s the longing of advent to yearn for peace to show up in the dark corners of the earth, and the restless places of your heart.

I’m learning to lean in to the longing. This world needs peacemakers and I can be one of them. Starting closest to home first - it’s hard and messy and holy. To find peace despite circumstance or storm is sanctifying work. I’m talking about a peace that is supernatural not superficial. It isn’t brought on by calm children, yuletide candles or perfect relationships. This peace, it passes all understanding.

It is curious to me that the most obviously peaceful character in the Christmas story is Mary. Gentle Mary, meek and mild - young, unwed and humbly undertaking an enormous, surprise assignment that throws her entire life off-axis.

We sing a song asking Mary if she knows but in the words recorded about Mary, I see a warrior: eyes wide open, hands straight up, fiercely resolved. Leaning in. Delivering peace.

Mary surrenders.

When Mary submits to her role in God’s rescue plan she relinquishes control. Her loyalty, despite risk of public shame and even physical harm, is unshakable. Mary trusts her Lord with her life and she yields to Him fully.

Mary worships.

Mary’s brave song proclaims what she knows to be true of the Mighty One; He holds ultimate power and authority. He is a provider, a rescuer. He is merciful and near. His ways are countercultural, completely upside-down and always best.

And Mary rejoices! She celebrates who God is, who He has been and who He forever will be. As she takes one courageous step after another, Mary’s worship holds a torch to light her way. She pushes back the darkness of the unknown by raising His name high, and aligning with all that He has promised.

Mary protects.

Perhaps Mary felt the gravity of that night more deeply than any other. This was heaven in her lap. So, while everyone marvels in frantic wonder, Mary ‘treasures up.’ She defends, preserves, and keeps safe and sound what she experienced on holy ground. Mary takes captive every thought and binds those sweet, mind-blowing, divine memories in her heart - saving them for when she will need them most.

Mary wrestles.

That famous term ‘pondered’ here doesn’t refer to a fleeting reflection. In Greek ponder is defined as, “to dispute with, meet with, engage in (war).” Mary wrestles with her reality. This brand new baby boy in her care was also the Saviour of the world. With her heart insulated by His protection, and her own obedience, there was space for longing and fight. For questions and answers. The messy, holy work of peacemaking within.

Mary’s tender tenacity was hard-fought. She actively pursued the presence of Almighty God. And with favour and mercy in His eyes, He met her right where she was.

My prayer is that we’d find our lives marked by peace. Not because it comes easily or naturally, but because the Prince of Peace honours our devotion.

In the waiting and the unexpected, may we surrender to the Creator of the universe. In the unknown, may we raise a torch of worship. Amid the noise and the wonder, may we protect our hearts in Jesus’ name. And within the safety of the palm of His hand, may we wrestle out the restlessness. May we find in these places the gospel of peace and the deep love of Jesus this Christmas.


Advent Week 1: HOPE

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Written By: Amy Gordon

Listen. Can you hear it? Lean a little closer.

It’s the sound of hope coming into a lost and dying world.
It’s the sound of peace coming into a struggling and chaotic world.
It’s the sound of love coming into a broken and grieving world.

It’s the sound of a Baby’s cry.

On that starry night in the little town of Bethlehem, when Mary welcomed Jesus into the world he had created, the sound of hope rang clear through the still starlit sky. Can you imagine how creation itself would have responded to that cry? Creation which was once perfect and whole and good - because God made it and said it was - now broken and yearning for that perfect union with it’s Creator once again.

And then suddenly there is the cry of a newborn baby. A cry that causes of all heaven and earth to leap for joy for hope has come! Finally, redemption is near. God’s plan for the salvation of his people, for the restoration of his earth, and for the redemption of his creation has begun. No wonder the stars all gathered together to point the wise men to Jesus, showing them the way to salvation. “He is here! The one you are looking for is right here! He is our Messiah!” And the angels declared, “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news that will cause great joy to all people.” Creation knew that God himself had come in the form of a human baby, for the cry of that baby declared to all who would hear that hope has come. Hope is here - for you and for me.

Do you ever wonder though, about those who missed it that night? Those people who walked passed Mary and Joseph as they were trying persistently to find a place to stay, a place to deliver the baby Mary was carrying. Or maybe those who looked the other way, or even casually bumped into Mary, brushing the holy contents of her pregnant belly. Did they ever come to know how close they were to God himself, how close they came to being part of the story?

There were many people in Bethlehem that night. Travellers, sojourners, all there for the same purpose but blindly missing out on the Present. All there for the same goal but sadly missing out on the Gift. All there together, caught up in the same mission but neglecting to stop long enough to truly embrace and engage in the moment that changed the world forever. They missed the message of hope and grace and love and truth that was sent to earth just for them on that long ago night.

If truth be told, we could be those people. We too often miss the heavenly offers of hope and grace and love and truth. We, like the wandering weary in Bethlehem that night, will be too caught up in our own troubles, in our own mission, in our own world to notices the touch of grace in our lives. There are numerous times throughout our days, weeks, years that God has sent messages and messengers to point us to Him, but we have been too tired, too distracted, or too busy to stop long enough to listen and to hear his voice. Our hearts and minds become cluttered with the urgent and we neglect the sacred. We miss out on the wonder of all God has for us. We just simply miss it. We miss Him.

This Christmas, let’s not miss it. Or Him. Let’s be fully present, fully aware, fully engaged in the wonder - and hope - of Christmas. Let’s listen for the cry of the newborn Baby - the cry of hope, peace, joy and love - and respond with a yearning that matches the exuberant joy of creation that night so long ago. Let us hold in our hearts an expectant of hope that cries out for redemption and restoration of our world and all God’s people.

Listen. Can you hear it?

It’s the cry of a Baby.

It’s the cry of hope.


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The Kingdom of God – Where the Strength of Women is Welcome

As a young woman, I often feared that to be a woman was to be somehow… less. I understood that men and women were equally loved by God, equally valuable and both good at things, but I also had a feeling that women were destined to be less influential. Less powerful. Less able to make an impact on history.

Sometimes the feeling caused me to shrink back, apologetic for having an opinion and unsure of myself, while sometimes I found myself getting snarky and defensive, jostling for recognition or entering into unspoken competition with the young men around me.

It has taken over a decade to dislodge many of the slivers of insecurity surrounding the woven complexity of my feminine nature and my desire to lead and make a difference. One of the most pivotal moments for me was in a time of worship at Bible school when I was 19 years old. The whisper of the Holy Spirit shattered my confusion and spoke to me, “I made you a girl on purpose.”

In that moment, I had to choose to trust that His assignment for me was specially formatted to my gender. He had not relegated me to a lesser role.

Just last year I was reading the account of Caleb in the book of Joshua and stumbled across some astonishing evidence that the kingdom of God is one that welcomes and even expects the strength of women to be released into the earth.

The book of Joshua contains the narrative of the people of Israel entering the land God had promised to give them and fighting for decades to gain possession of it. Joshua was the lead, and one of his trusted friends was Caleb, who was known for his faith and valiant military campaigns.

The story picks up in chapter 10, where we see that the general, Joshua, is rallying the chiefs of each of Israel’s tribes. They have just fought a brutal war and captured five intimidating, enemy kings. Joshua has these five kings brought low so that the Israelite generals could each place a foot on the neck of these enemies, symbolizing their dominance and the end of their wicked reign.

Joshua then turned to the Israelite army and repeats the words that God had spoken to him personally in chapter 1, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.”

Your feet will be placed on their necks. You will not be overcome. You will stand victorious.

Fast forward over to chapter 15 and we read more about Caleb and his sons and daughter. Though Caleb has been given his allotment of land as reward for his faithful service, the battle is not quite over. Caleb still has an arch-enemy by the name of Anak who is yet to be defeated.

Now, Anak’s name in Hebrew is the word, “anaq” which means, “neck, or necklace.” Here is a beautiful hidden treasure that made my eyes widen and my jaw drop a little.

The name of Caleb’s daughter was Achsah, which happens to be the Hebrew word, “Akcah” which means, “anklet.”

In view of the narrative of this book of history, we can conclude that Caleb’s naming of Achsah was deliberate and very likely reminiscent of that moment when Joshua had his generals place their feet on the neck of the enemy.

When I read this, my heart leapt to recognize that this Hebrew father, Caleb, was reflecting the very heart of the heavenly Father who says to us as women,

“Listen to me, daughter. I know that there is an intimidating enemy out there trying to keep you from walking in your calling. But, I know who you are. You are Achsah. You are one who will place your foot on the neck of the enemy. Be strong and courageous.”

Ever since reading this account, I’ve chosen to wear a simple gold chain on my ankle as representation of the name the Lord has given me. On days when I feel shaken or intimidated by the calling He has spoken to me, I remember that my Heavenly Father not only welcomes me into His presence to be comforted, but He also knows that I can handle more than I think I can. The Lord sees the strength of women as an incredible asset to the church.

It can be tempting to forfeit our authority, shrink back and make excuses, but you must not. It can be equally tempting to abandon the fruit of the Spirit and push forward in the crowd, hungry for validation and acknowledgment. This is not necessary, noble or wise.

The Lord sees each one of us and He knows who we are. You are the daughter named Achsah.

You can read all the details of the story in Joshua 10:16-28, and then Joshua 15:13-20.


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