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Food for Thought - Musings

Advent Week 4

This final week of the Advent Season, seek to carry around within you the awareness that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Ask God to give you a sense of the peace of Christ and help recall to your mind and heart that Jesus is the Prince of Peace throughout your week.

Day One: Today we will spend time sitting with one of the words contained in the title, “Prince of Peace”: Prince.
The word ‘prince’ denotes the ruler of a principality or state: a male member of a royal family, especially a son of the sovereign: a nobleman of varying rank and status.

Having never been around kings or royalty of any kind, it is hard for me to relate to the term ‘prince’ and imagine what feelings would be evoked within me if I happened into the presence of a prince. I imagine I would be somewhat nervous and I would endeavor to show the prince respect and honor while displaying humility.

What about you? What comes to your mind as you consider coming into the presence of a prince… not a modern day prince but a prince of days gone by, when princes had power over life and death, when one word from a prince could bring you great wealth or total destruction? How would you feel in the presence of a prince? How would you seek to present yourself before the prince?

As I considered all this prince stuff, what came to mind was the prominent place that bowing had in these encounters. For centuries, people have bowed before those in exalted positions of secular power. Bowing has also been used and is used in religious practices both inside and outside the protestant church as a sign of submission, adoration, gratitude, reverence and trust. It demonstrates trust in that when we bow before another, we render ourselves helpless and fully vulnerable to their attack.

"Bowing, in its simplest terms, is a change in physical attitude, usually meant to indicate humility and respect”, writes Young. "All religions specify moments during formal worship and ritual when we should punctuate our inner state with physical action. Bowing is intimately connected with the ways in which we cultivate our faith and our hearts, because bowing is never meant as an empty gesture, to be done without awareness or intent. Instead, bowing is meant to call us to greater awareness of our thoughts, emotions and intentions."
The Sacred Art of Bowing

Think of a time in your life when you experienced something of Jesus’ royalty, power and authority. What were the feelings inside you, the thoughts, and the words that took shape around Jesus’ royalty, power and authority? How did that experience make you feel? Why? What does it stir within you today as you reflect on it? Why?

Spend some time asking God to give you a sense of Jesus’ royalty, power and authority.

Today during your prayer time I invite you to experiment with wordless prayer that employs the use of bowing to express your thoughts, emotions and intentions to God. Take time to experiment with long bows, short bows, and slow bows, bows you hold before God for a period of time before rising again. Become aware of what you are feeling during these times and what you are seeking to communicate to God through your various bows. You may incorporate kneeling and lying face down before Jesus as well. As you enter Jesus’ presence, do so with the mindset that Jesus is a mighty prince with power and authority over life and death. Sometimes we forget the greatness and grandeur of the Prince of Peace. Bowing helps us to remember into whose presence we are continually invited to freely enter.

You may want to seek to employ the practice of bowing in your prayer times throughout this week. It can be very powerful to engage our body in our prayers.
Luke 1:32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David…”

Examen
At the end of the day ask yourself; did I experience or catch a glimpse of the royalty, power and authority of Jesus today? If yes, when? How did it make me feel? How did it make me feel toward God, toward life?

If no, then ask; what was it about me, my day, my life that might have hindered my ability to see and experience the royalty, power and authority of Jesus today? Bring this before God.


Day Two:
Today we will spend time sitting with the second word contained in the title, “Prince of Peace”: Peace.
The word ‘peace’ speaks of a state of tranquility or quiet: a freedom from civil disturbance: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions: harmony in personal relations: a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.

Or, to summarize:
• The absence of war or other hostilities.
• An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities.
• Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations
• Public security and order
• Inner contentment; serenity: peace of mind.
Which of the above definitions of peace do you see most directly connected with the peace that Jesus brings to the world, to others, to you? Why?

Often times when people are asked to imagine a scene that communicates peace, it involves a serene rural setting far away from the pressures, fast pace and demanding realities of real life, a place of internal and external tranquility and rest, safety, freedom and security. The scene they paint is a utopia (which comes from the Greek and whose etymology means no place), a place that does not exist but is only a fanciful escapist illusion that is not attainable in the broken world in which we live. The reality of this broken world is expressed in the words of Jesus when he states; “In this world you will have tribulation….” But this does not mean peace is impossible, for the Prince of Peace brings another kind of peace. Jesus brings a peace that is not a byproduct of the absence of hardship or external disturbances, but a peace that instead springs from a relational connection with the Prince of Peace. Paul makes this clear when he writes in Ephesians 2:14; “For He Himself (Jesus, the Prince of Peace) is our peace…” The peace our Prince brings us is an ‘in spite of’ peace (not contingent on the external realities of life), a peace that organically flows from the veracity contained in Jesus’ name, Emmanuel (God with us).

Spend some time pondering this amazing statement (God with us). How has Jesus’ relationship with you brought peace to your life? In what areas (relationship with others, self, God) is Jesus seeking to bring peace to your life? Why do you think this is?

Think of a time in your life when you experienced the unmistakable ‘in spite of’ peace of God. What were the feelings inside you, the thoughts, and the words that took shape around your experience of God? What surprised you about your encounter with God? How did it make you feel? Why? What does it stir within you today as you reflect on it? Why? How does this experience impact how you look at life and how you live life?

Spend some time thanking God for this time in your life and ask God to give you a deeper awareness of the peace that flows from the Prince of Peace.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Examen

At the end of the day ask yourself; did I experience the peace of Christ today? If yes, when? How did it make me feel? How did it make me feel toward God, toward life, toward others?

If no, then ask; what was it about me, my day, my life that might have hindered my ability to see and experience the peace of Christ? Bring this before God.

Much like joy, peace can be derived from temporal transitory realities, but lasting peace flows from God and is dependent on one’s ability to maintain one’s focus on the person and promises of God.

Day Three: Today we will focus on the means utilized by the Prince of Peace to make peace available to us.

As we stated in the introduction to the Advent materials, there are different colors associated with each of the seasons of the church year. In both the Advent Season (the time of preparation leading up to the birth of Christ) and the Lent Season (the time of preparation leading up to Good Friday) the color designated for use is purple. The use of purple for both these seasons is a reminder of the inseparable connection between the crib and the cross of Jesus. For the moment Jesus arrives on the scene as a babe in the manger his death on the cross was assured, it was never a matter of if but only of when. Jesus was born to die that we might live or in Jesus’ own words; “I came not to be served but to serve by giving my life a ransom for many. In a very real sense, the moment Jesus was laid in the crib in Bethlehem the cross was raised on Golgotha.

Paul, commenting on the agency that brought the peace that the Prince of Peace brings, states in Colossians 1:20; “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross….”

Spend some time pondering the twin realities of the crib and cross being linked together as an inseparable event.

What feelings arise within you? Are you comfortable with holding both of these realities or does it create resistance within you? Why do you think this affects you as it does?

Now you are invited to use your imagination to enter into the manger scene and ponder the twin realities of the crib and cross of Christ.

Imagine yourself going toward the crib of Christ. As you near the crib, take time to slowly bow before the Prince of Peace. Now stand before this tiny baby, pondering the mystery of the Infinite clothed in the finite. After awhile, allow yourself to imagine the cross casting its ominous shadow on the crib in which Jesus lies, see the faint markings of wounds as they gradually appear on this tiny one’s hands, feet and brow. As you stand before the manger taking all this in, recall to your mind the following words that describe this tiny baby:

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you… one who will take up your infirmities and carry your sorrows…you will find him in a manger …he will be considered stricken by God…wrapped in cloths…this baby will be pierced for your transgressions, crushed for your iniquities; the punishment that will bring you peace will be upon this child and by his wounds you will be, you are being healed...and his name will be Emmanuel, which means God with us.
(Luke 1:11-12/Isaiah 53:3-5/Mathew 1:23)

What stirs within you as you stand before the crib of Christ and remember the cross of Christ? What feelings arise as you notice the cross casting its shadow upon the baby Jesus, as you see the wounds begin to appear on his tiny hands, feet and brow? Spend time sharing your stirrings and feelings with God, with Jesus. Allow this to lead you into a time of praise, thanksgiving and adoration.

Examen
At the end of the day ask yourself; was I aware of the twin realities of Jesus’ birth and death today? If yes, when? How did it make me feel? How did it make me feel toward God, toward life, toward others?

If no, then ask; what was it about me, my day, my life that might have hindered my ability to be aware of the twin realities of Jesus’ birth and death? Bring this before God.


Day Four: What does the title ‘Prince of Peace’ convey to you about: who God is/God’s involvement/role in your life? How does this title make you feel toward Jesus? Have you ever experienced Jesus in this way? If yes, when? How has that impacted you and the way you live life?

If the answer is no, how does that make you feel toward God, toward yourself? Regardless of your answer (yes or no), share with God your feelings toward God about your experience or lack of experience of God as Prince of Peace.
Now, sit with the words of Jesus:

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace in the world. You have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, makes it clear that in the world you will have tribulation and that this tribulation may tend to produce feelings within you of being troubled and/or afraid; what do these words of Jesus stir up within you? How can you order your life in such a way that, even in the midst of tribulation and even as the feelings of being troubled or afraid dance around the edges of your heart and mind, you can experience the peace that the Prince of Peace offers you? See the passage below:

“You will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is steadfast on Thee, for this one trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Seek to be present to the Prince of Peace and the peace he brings you throughout your day (remembering it is not a ‘because of’ peace but an ‘in spite of’ peace). Seek to do life today from a place of connection with the Prince of Peace and the life-giving peace he gives.

Examen
At the end of the day ask yourself; was I aware of the presence of the Prince of Peace and the peace he gives today? If yes, when? How did it make me feel? How did it make me feel toward God, toward life, toward others? How did I manifest/demonstrate God’s peace with myself, with others?

If no, then ask; what was it about me, my day, my life that might have hindered my ability to experience the Prince of Peace and the peace he gives today? How might I order my day/mind/heart to help me be more in touch with God’s peace tomorrow? Bring this before God.


Day Five: Review. Look back over the past four days: what stands out to you, what were you drawn to in the meditations, what was difficult for you to embrace? Why? What feelings were stirred within you the last few days regarding Jesus being the Prince of Peace? What might be God’s invitation and/or challenge for you that is contained in this title?
How has your view of peace and Jesus as the Prince of Peace changed throughout this week?
Where do you see the characteristics of Jesus as the Prince of Peace in the Christmas story? How does this realization change or deepen your appreciation of the Christmas story? Why?

Examen
At the end of the day ask yourself; how did I experience Jesus as my Prince of Peace today? How did it make me feel? How did it make me feel toward God, toward life as I embraced the truth that Jesus is the peace giver?

Bring all this before God and, being still, silently linger in God’s unconditional love, grace and peace.



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