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Four ways to make Advent peaceful

Peace can be very elusive during the month of December. The pressure to shop until you drop can take over and destroy peace. There are extra family gatherings and, while they are wonderful, they can add stress, especially if there has been a divorce or separation. Christmas celebrations can also be difficult if we have lost loved ones. All the many wonderful memories associated with the holiday season make the pain of loss more acutely felt. So, to be people of peace can be a great challenge during this Advent/Christmas season.

Yet peace is the gift God wants us to have. When Jesus was born, the angels rejoiced, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth!”

Peace comes from Jesus. He is the one who reconciles the world to the Father. He is the one who shows us that it is not in riches or power that we find fulfillment or joy, but in God, our Father. When we trust and surrender to Jesus—surrender to Him all our worries and cares—and realize that He is Emmanuel, God with us, our souls will find peace.

If we want peace this season, we must draw near to Jesus. We must be like the shepherds who sought Him out. We must be like Mary and Joseph who accepted their bad situation, and recognized that God Himself allowed His Son to be born in a stable. We ask Jesus to help us find Him in Bethlehem.

1.    Ask yourself: Where are the poor in my Bethlehem—my family and community? Jesus is there. To help you recognize your own poverty and the poverty of others, give to the poor—either monetary help, or volunteer your time. It may be someone who is lonely in your own family. It may be the poor in the community. Most churches have various opportunities of service and assistance to the poor. As we give, we become more compassionate and recognize our own poverty. We become like the stable, the place where Christ chose to be born.

2.    Reconcile with God, family, and friends. Forgive those who have hurt you, and be humble enough to admit to others your sorrow in doing things that have hurt them. Verbally apologize or send letters or cards to those who have become distant or estranged. Receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

3.    Make an Advent wreath with family and light a candle each day until Christmas. Candlelight reminds us of God’s presence. It reminds us to be still and know that God is God. Family prayer is so important if we want peace this season. During prayer time, we can also remember loved ones who have died. As we pray for Christ’s coming, we remember that He will be coming with all those who have died and are with Him in glory.

4.    Surrender your anxieties to God. Joseph and Mary had to learn to do this. During December, meditate on Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem. Say this prayer with St. Joseph for his intercession: St. Joseph, you learned to trust God when you could not adequately provide for Jesus yourself. Pray that I may surrender my own worries, struggles, and fears of not being able to provide the care my loved ones may need. Pray that I may believe firmly that, just as God provided for Jesus, God will provide for my family. Amen.