I should be feeling a lot more excited than I am. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays of the year. As we get closer to the 25th, I find myself dragging a little bit. I’ve done everything right. I’ve been listening to Christmas carols. I’ve been at church for the advent lightings. I’m almost done with Christmas shopping. I even have holiday parties coming up.
When I was a kid, this time of year was always thrilling to me. Lately, I’ve felt more and more like it’s just another year with festivities. I’ve even been looking at advent more this year. Last week, I posted about the unexpectedness of Christ’s birth and the importance of advent. I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t always hit home to me, the meaning of advent that is. Advent should be a period of waiting, of anticipation. But I’m not really sure if I feel it.
I was taking to my housemate, Susan Schaller, the other day. Susan and I always end up talking a lot and the discussion ended up at nonviolence. Here we go, I thought. Susan talks a lot of about nonviolence. “It has to begin with yourself,” she told me, “Nonviolence begins with the inside and then you can work your way out.”
I don’t know if I had been truly listening to her until that point. I always heard and responded to what she was saying, but I never really listened with my heart. It was the feeling of something finally clicking. How do I discover peace and nonviolence within myself with my life constantly going? Last year, I remember praying, “God, I just want to find peace.” It was during classes, and most likely around the time of year when exams were happening. And here I am, almost a year later still struggling to find peace. I think I expected finding peace to be easy, probably because people who seem at peace make it look easy. When I hear people talk about “inner peace” and “how to find your inner self,” I put up a wall and think, “Sure, whatever.”
But this Christmas, I want to redefine advent. Talking to Susan and several others, I realize that advent is not about the normal anxiety or anticipation that might accompany a normal event. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the prince of peace, but truly that peace has to begin within. It’s an ongoing journey, and it never ends. This advent is the season of peace on earth, a peace that is possible through Christ. It begins within me. With all the turmoil in the world, all of my busy life, I have to begin peace with myself. I’m not really sure how to start that process, but I do now that the peace that I long for is within me, not outside of me.