THE PROMISE OF ADVENT
As a procrastinator I’ve put off writing this article until the Holy Spirit inspired me with the appropriate words. Actually, I am not ready for Advent and have felt overwhelmed with disquiet in my soul. The anger, division, and hostility that has been boiling under the surface of our culture has erupted with violence; which creates more fear and anxiety. Living in the midst of this tension can render one to feel powerless and powerlessness creates more fear and anxiety. The whole situation is a never ending roller-coaster and I would really like to get off the ride.
Now Advent is supposed to be the season of anticipation, the anticipation of Jesus’ return along with the anticipation of his birth. The big question is how do we make sure our anticipation is for the fulfillment of God’s promise through Jesus and not the anticipation of doom and gloom? In its core Advent is beautiful and peaceful and therefore a season to embrace during this time of conflict. I believe that our discipline of prayer and devotion that is central to the Advent season is able to have a huge impact within our own hearts and in our world. Maybe that statement seems grandiose, but it has been scientifically proven that collective prayer and meditation for peace actually brings about measurable results of less violence and hostility.
The documentary “What the bleep do we Know” which looks at quantum physics and string theory combined with spiritual practice, reveals the power of prayer for good in the world. One part of the film looked at a study done in Washington, D.C. in 1993. A group of 800 Transcendental Meditationists went to DC and prayed for peace from the middle June through the middle July in ’93. At the time D.C. had one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, and from data acquired from previous summers, law enforcement expected violent crime to be at a certain rate. Over the course of the year D.Cs violent crime was much higher than the previous year and the summer was looking like a real doozy. So what happened? Crime dropped 23% during the time the 800 people were praying for peace. After the study and the 800 people went home, crime rose again.
Ironically, I was living in heart of Washington, D.C. while this study was happening. I had no idea this study was going on, but let me share my own experience during that time. It was awesome. The summer of ’93 was the best summer of my life. I was living on the campus of George Washington University sharing a room in a fraternity with a friend (It was all very innocent). We played softball on The Eclipse in the evenings, hung out with friends and had a blast. The best part of my summer was spending July 4th on the National Mall at the base of the Washington Monument. The Mall was turned into a giant national picnic park with bands, games, and just tons of fun. In the evening fireworks were fired off from the Potomac River and exploded over the Lincoln Memorial. I have no idea how many people were gathered on the Mall that day, but it was jammed packed. What was absent that day was division and discord because politics was not a part of the celebration. Everything about that day is what I love about being an American and I fear that unity and peace will never return. Now I wonder how much of that peace had to do with 800 people living in D.C. praying for peace. Also, can the joy of that summer be replicated today? I believe we can.
During Advent we hand out devotionals as aids for prayer and study. Let us all use them daily throughout Advent, but let’s do more. Let us deliberately pray for peace in our lives, in our homes, church, town, state, country, and the world. Let us focus on the peace that is found in Jesus and do this without requests or demands. The most important thing to remember is to pray for peace and not an end of discord. Put your focus on the positive and let God handle the negative. Let us embrace Advent as the season of anticipation for God’s will through Jesus being fulfilled here and now. On Sunday mornings between services let’s gather during coffee hour and share our experiences. If devotional books are not your thing and you would like to read a book, or have a prayer tool to help you focus then let us work together to find out what works for you. Together we can be the change in the world we are all seeking.
May the Peace of Christ be with you all,