Advent Two, Three and Four
Peace, Joy and Love
Once again I apologize to faithful readers who keep checking back, hoping to see a new editorial. “Busy” doesn’t begin to describe my life, recently.
During the Season of Advent we contemplate Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
We discussed Hope already. Today’s instalment will look at the remaining three topics: Peace, Joy and Love.
Is peace just the absence of war?
Is peace the avoidance of violence or conflict?
The dictionary defines “peace” as an occurrence of harmony characterized by a lack of violence or conflict, and freedom from fear of violence.
For myself, I believe that Peace, like happiness, comes from within.
Inner peace, peace of mind, calmness, tranquility, or serenity — this is a state which we can achieve, a state in which we reject conflict, often through religious practises such as meditation or prayer.
Peace is also achieved through following the two greatest Commandments:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and Love your neighbour as yourself.
In fact, most, if not all religions have a similar “great commandment”… or perhaps you know it as the “Golden Rule.”
Not long ago I watched the movie Evan Almighty — this is the one where Evan Baxter, played by Steve Carell, gets asked by God to build an Ark.
In one scene, God and Evan — who now resembles Noah, with long hair and beard, and flowing robes — are sitting having a chat. God tells Evan the world can be changed through one random act of kindness at a time.
Many people have taken to trying to perform random acts of kindness, for instance: paying for the order for the car behind them at the drive thru, helping someone drag their shopping cart through the snow to their car; handing out gift certificates to homeless people asking for loose change.
This is “peace.”
To me, “peace” is a personal endeavour.
Yes, we strive for a bigger sort of peace — for world-wide peace. But let’s be honest, for all the best wishes of those who call for peace, the world will not simply sit down around the negotiating table and agree to terms.
And so, how do we achieve “peace”?
I mentioned earlier that I believe that peace comes from within, and I also believe that this is the Peace that we need to seek.
Peace, serenity, tranquility.
When we are ourselves “at peace,” then we can in turn pass on that peace to others.
There are many people who do not know this peace — people who have daily struggles; struggles to make ends meet, to pay the rent, to buy groceries.
How can anyone even begin to contemplate world peace when they do not know peace in their own day-to-day life?
We’d like to believe in an altruistic pursuit of a broader sense of peace, but is this realistic for someone who does not know where their next meal is coming from, who is facing eviction from their home, who is homeless, who is eating their only meal at the soup kitchen?
How can someone know peace if they are working at two or three jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet?
The Bible tells of a parable told by Jesus; the story of the banquet, where the well-to-do invited guests all declined the invitation of the host, who instead had his servants go out into the streets and gather the needy and the lowly, and served them.
This, I believe, is the “peace” we ought to be seeking.
There are many ways in which we can promote “peace.”
- Standing up against bullying, or against injustice.
- Taking a stand against harassment and abuse in the workplace.
- Speaking out in response to attitudes of prejudice and racism directed at new immigrants to our country.
- Pressuring the government to act upon the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
- Seeking better relations with our First Nations people.
- Providing shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, jackets and boots to those suffering from the cold.
This is “peace.”
I believe that when we can find peace in our own lives, when we can find some “inner peace,” some “tranquility”, then we can begin to pass that peace to others.
It would be easy to consider Joy in the same way we have both Hope and Peace, recognizing how difficult it might be for those who are hungry, or homeless, or otherwise struggling in their lives to find JOY, but…
Joy is, perhaps, a unique theme… an emotion, a feeling,
I don’t know how many of you read the book The Fault in Our Stars, or went and saw the movie… or both… it was very popular with late-teen—early adult young women, but in much the same way I am a huge Harry Potter fan, there are adults that have embraced The Fault in Our Stars, too.
John Green, the author, explores some philosophical questions, including this one: “Without pain, how could we know joy?”
I would also suggest that while pain is not necessary, but that we can experience joy despite the pain we may be feeling.
Once again, I would suggest that in much the way we experience Peace as a personal endeavour, so too would we experience Joy.
Joy is an emotion that starts off small and, if nurtured, can grow.
Many years ago, I think it was in Grade Two, I learned a song that has stuck with me: Joy is like the rain.
The lyrics to the first and fourth verses are:
I saw raindrops on my window, Joy is like the Rain;
Laughter runs across my pane, slips away and comes again;
Joy is like the rain.
I saw raindrops on the river, Joy is like the Rain;
Bit by bit the river grows, ’till all at once it overflows.
Joy is like the rain.
This is an apt metaphor for JOY; that bit by bit joy enters our hearts, and like rain causing a river to grow, the joy builds until our hearts overflow.
What is it, though, to know JOY?
The dictionary tells us that joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness; and synonyms include delight, jubilation, triumph, exultation, exhilaration, bliss and, my favourite, exuberance.
I don’t know about you, but to me there is so much more to “joy” than simply “great pleasure and happiness.”
Really, there are a lot of things that make me happy: a good meal, or a nice dessert, or hearing a favourite song on the radio, for instance. But none of these things fill my heart with JOY.
What sort of things bring JOY to your hearts?
I do have a close friend whose children and grandchildren call me “Uncle Dave,” and whom I am very, very fond of. And while being an “adopted uncle” is very special, and my relationship with them does bring joy to my heart, I know its not the same joy I would feel for my own children and grandchildren.
But I do know some joy.
When I realize that I have had a positive influence, and have made a difference in a young person’s life… that is Joy.
Quite often, that acknowledgement comes simply in being recognized in the mall or elsewhere, by a former student, or a former camper. In fact, over the past week, I have met several current and former students who greeted me warmly, and seemed genuinely glad to see me.
Really… when a teenager goes out of their way to come over to you and speak with you in a mall or other public place, that is joy.
In fact, another former student posted a reply to a comment I made on Facebook, telling of my LTO ending. She wrote, “You are a fantastic teacher.”
Reading that brought me joy.
It is those brief moments that add up, hopefully to the point where your heart has overflowed with joy, where you have shared that joy with others.
As I have mentioned — over the past two weeks we have turned our thoughts to the poor, the hungry, and the homeless; to victims of violence, abuse and neglect.
Who is more deserving of experiencing even the most brief moments of joy in their lives, a moment of joy despite the pain and struggle they are enduring.
We all deserve moments of joy. In fact, we deserve enough joy that our hearts should, like the river filling with rain, overflow.
And I would suggest that anyone who has ever felt the heartache of loss has already known joy; otherwise, how could we measure the loss we have experienced?
Still, even if we have experienced such loss, it is not the joy that leaves us. That spark of joy is held within our hearts, and is essential to us knowing hope and peace.
It is the joy we feel in our hearts that gives us hope: hope for the future, for our own future, for the future of others, for the future of all mankind.
Oh my… the word “love” gets used a lot, doesn’t it? But what do we really mean when we say we love someone… or some thing?
Surely we don’t love pizza or chocolate the way we love one another.
English is a marvellously flexible, adaptable language, but that is both a strength and a weakness. That we can associate so many definitions with a single word more often than not confuses issues, rather than providing any clarity.
So what do we mean by “love”?
Is love “an intense feeling of deep affection”, or perhaps “feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment”? Or is there more to love.
Poetry, prose, music… so many words have been written, and so much thought has been given to trying to describe love in all its manifestations over the centuries, but I don’t know that we can ever adequately do the word justice.
Love isn’t just the actions that match a definition. Love is a feeling, and emotion. Love is a part of our very being… or should be.
To know love, whether that be the love of a parent or grandparent, of a sibling, or a friend… isn’t that what we all crave?
Love is more experienced than defined. We know when we are loved, or are in love — although we are as often as not mistaken about the latter tense.
The Bible tells us to “love your neighbour,” but surely that doesn’t refer to romantic love. Still, how do we express a love for a neighbour?
As we have discussed in Hope, Peace, and Joy, there are those who need our love: the poor, the hungry, and the homeless; to victims of violence, abuse and neglect.
No, we can’t take in every homeless person living on the street, or invite every person living in poverty to Sunday dinner. But we can take an interest in seeing that their needs are addressed.
We can take action, letting those in power know that we cannot let this continue, that everyone deserves the dignity of a place to live, and food on the table.
We can contribute to charity, offering our time or our tithes to provide services for those in need.
We can stand up for those who are being bullied, those who are subject to racist attacks, those who are being abused physically and verbally.
We can put ourselves in their shoes, and ask ourselves “Why do people treat them this way.” And then we can stand up and work together to make a change.
Whatever religion, whatever philosophy, you will find a common “Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would be treated.”
That is love.
Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.
Especially at Christmas, but also throughout the year. These are the foundation our society is built upon. These are the things that matter most.
But… that’s just my opinion.