It's Friday night. One kid has a youth group and other has decided it is time to sulk. Then yell. Then sulk some more. But before that can happen, I pick them both up from school and head south for a Christmas tree. There is a Christmas tree sale today. A blowout. An event. Hundreds of trees for a charitable donation. We head straight from school for the four o'clock starting bell. We arrive right at four and lo and behold we are third in line. But nothing is happening. The line is not moving. The trees are not being swarmed with a frenzy of shoves and grabs. The line is growing and at a quarter after I finally realize that I misread something. The event starts at five. An extra hour I don't have has just been taken from me. The kids head into Staples for a warm up while I wait in my too-cold coat and shoes. I try to dance myself warm, without being noticed.
There are no margins on days like this.
Carl the dog will not get his long walk. Supper just became reheated leftovers. No work will get done on the basement reno. A comfortable sit down before youth group just vanished. My wife is working late.
Saturday starts with promise as I ease out of bed late and groggy. The kids are playing nice with a massive thrift store Playmobil set. We are preparing to head to the museum for their 48-hour closing party. All is well until, just before we leave, my son's friend calls to hang out. Now my son doesn't want to come along. Now he's spouting off reasons why my plans for the day are not going to be any kind of fun. More sulking. More yelling. We head off with a dark cloud hanging over the car.
At the museum, we squeeze ourselves through massive crowds. It is fun, but not peaceful. I am trying to ignore text messages and phone calls in my pocket. Back at the Bleeding Heart Art Space, things are not going well. The Space has not been opened on time due to a missing keyholder. Now open, the sound is not working. Technology is letting me know that technology is failing, and there's little I can do. We are all getting hungry.
From the museum, we race toward a Christmas open house, full of hope for soup and sandwiches. But there is no soup and there are no sandwiches. Not yet. We are too early. Those are apparently supper plans. I have let the kids down big time. My contract says I have to feed them. It is a minimum requirement. With hit the cookies and the veggie tray hard.
Soon, we need to get going. I have a vegetable to prepare for our family birthday potluck tonight. The store is out of green beans. I course correct for asparagus. I've got just one hour now to cook these vegetables and get the dog walked. Somehow I pull this off and coast into a family dinner where 18 people and a hyper pup crowd my inlaws' living room and kitchen. It is nice, but it is not peaceful.
Finally, Sunday morning arrives. On this 'day of rest' I wake up with another potluck dish to prepare, walls to insulate, a Home Depot trip and seven or eight songs to play for church worship this morning. I am unpracticed and make it up in a backroom before the service starts. We lose track of time and enter five minutes late with equipment to set up. The first song is as much a mess as my unsettled brain.
Where there should be peace, there is a well-curated chaos inside me. Tis' the season.
But it is not that season. Not examined deeply. Not through the ages. It is Advent. A season of longing. Waiting. This Sunday, specifically, we are waiting for peace.
Peace through the dark anniversaries of lost love ones. Peace as a friend processes a cancer diagnosis. Peace as the walls come down and debris gets loaded into the truck and you realize you lost the keys to said truck. Peace as 14 people get shot in an American social care agency. Peace as dozens more are killed in bombings almost daily. Peace through the bad news playlist of radioland.
'Lord Jesus, come soon.'
This is what we pray this Sunday morning. This is our a refrain, repeated throughout the liturgy. We mean it this time. Lord Jesus, come soon.
Travis Enright speaks Sunday morning of peace. In Advent, each Sunday has a theme, and Peace is this Sunday's focus. Not a peace that gets rid of all darkness. Not a peace that negates pain with platitudes. But peace, flowing like a river. Unchanging. Flowing still. There for us to kneel, and drink deep. All of us, down by the riverside. Kneeling. Drinking. It is a peace that comes in community. In shared pain and shared hope. Palpable expectation.
They call Jesus the Prince of Peace. Lord Jesus, come soon.
Most nights, if everything is working right, you will drive by the Bleeding Heart Art Space and see a river flowing across the windows. Filling the space, it appears, with rushing water. You will see that river flowing regardless of what is going on outside. Cars rush past and that river flows. Someone yells something foul towards a fellow human and that river flows. Someone walks home looking over his shoulder in fear and that river flows. Someone picks up a woman for some indecent act and that river flows. Lights and sirens blare as that river flows. Through the dark of night, bright as your phone screen, that river flows.
Peace flowing like a river. Lord Jesus, come soon.
I don't understand this peace. Not really. But I do leave Sunday morning with a lightness of being. I leave known. Heard. Loved. Able to rest, finally, at the short ending of a long weekend.
Offered peace anyways.