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“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” (2 Thess. 3:16)  

I recently read this statement in an article: “Peace is the absence of physical, mental, or emotional turmoil.”  

For all practical purposes, I can agree with that statement and find it helpful.  However, my concern is with the word ‘absence’—as if peace only comes when there is a lack of unpeaceful things.  

In other words, I can find peace when I’m not injured or experiencing any aches and pains.  I can find peace when I’m not depressed by the world around me or experiencing anxiety.  I can find peace when I’m not grieving or enduring any prolonged sadness or emotional weight.  

But what if peace was, in fact, a presence within our physical, mental, and emotional turmoil?  What if peace was a Person who promised that He would give us peace in the midst of our turmoil?  

As we’ve journeyed through Advent, there’s been an emphasis on the coming of Christ—on the reality that we are waiting and expecting and hoping for His arrival.  He’s not here yet; He hasn’t yet taken root on this earth.  There’s an absence.  

Yet the message of Christmas is that the absence has been filled.  The Presence of peace Himself has arrived and has met us within our brokenness, our dysfunctional humanity, and the shambles of our physical, mental, and emotional disorder.  

In my previous devotional a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that the peace lily in our living room has finally bloomed a white flower for the first time in years.  

Over the last two weeks, I can’t help but smile at this goofy plant.  The flower—which normally would sit at level height with the rest of the pine-colored leaves—is a good two inches above the rest.  The stem is perfectly vertical, and the white flower is facing up and out like a king cobra flaring its hood.  

It’s as if my peace lily is wanting to shout out, “I’m here!  If you didn’t think I was coming, I’m letting you know now—I’m here!”  Having waited so long for its arrival, I frequently catch myself staring at it with childlike glee.  

And yet it could so easily be missed.   

How might we be attentive to the Presence of peace this season?  Although this year isn’t filled in the same way with the presence of family and friends, with co-workers and Christmas parties, we are still drawn into the habitual practice of rushing and scurrying about trying to get all of our tasks completed.    

We are so often afraid of ‘absence’ that we try to fill every space with something else—so that we can avoid the physical, mental, and emotional turmoil.  

But could this year not be an opportunity for us to pause, sit in the absence, and allow the Presence of peace to meet us there?  To allow Him to fill the need and grant us peace?  To remind us of simple joys and the small ways that He seeks to get our attention?  

Because according to the verse above, our peace can only come from Him.  It’s a gift that comes in knowing Christ and being attentive to His Presence.  He is the Lord of peace.  

And His hope—the hope of this season—is that He is able to gift us that peace “at all times and in every way.”   

So may our eyes and ears be open to receiving it.    

Jesus, our Lord of peace, this is the season when we remind ourselves of Your coming, and we taste again the joy and hope of Your coming again.  Help us to be attentive to Your Presence with us—the Presence of Your Holy Spirit—especially this year.  May we seek in You the peace that passes all understanding.  And would You meet us, Immanuel, in the place where we need You most.  In Your Name, Amen.  

Song:  Have a listen to this song by Matt Mahar.  It captures the Christmas hope in a way that has really struck me this year, and I pray it does the same for you.  (The whole album is worth a listen.)