About the author: Aubry Smith is a freelance writer and a stay-at-home mom to her two boys in North Carolina. She and her husband, Brady, are currently training for missions among Muslims at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She also blogs at MyOfferings to edify, challenge, and encourage the Church.
Twelve years ago this week, I stood before the church Advent wreath beside my mother. Diagnosed with malignant brain tumors and given mere months to live, she had been asked by our pastor to light the candle of Peace. Clearly undergoing an internal struggle with peace, my mother asked me to do it instead.
So there I stood, shaking with this candle before hundreds of piercing eyes, full of pity. Pity for this young, dying mother of five children. Pity for the weeping, trembling teenaged acolyte. Pity for the cruel irony of a suffering family lighting a candle of Peace.
Miraculously, my mother survived the cancer and lives to this day. But the delay of her death did not bring peace. She is not whole. Her personality radically changed, and my father engaged in a string of affairs before leaving her. She now suffers from dementia. She often forgets the names of my children, or that I have children. She is rude and abrasive. Her skull has been riddled with infections and much of the bone has been removed, so that her head is caved in on one side, posing a constant danger from falls. Her finances are a mess, and she is bound to a nursing home. She is constantly in surgery or in the hospital.
She is no longer the mother who once stood with me before that candle of Peace.
Sometimes I ask the Lord whether it might have been easier if she had gone with the cancer, as she should have. I wonder whether we would know more peace had she died. No divorce, no heart-wrenching dementia, no back-taxes, no more life-threatening surgeries. Would the pain of a quick death be more bearable than this insufferably long death?
We pray for peace this Advent because we are a people ignorant of peace.
It took many years, but I realize now the wisdom in the pastor’s decision to have us light this particular candle. As we celebrate the first coming of Christ, we remember why He came – to make right what sin had broken. Because of Christ, we have the in-breaking of a Kingdom of Peace, which will come to fullness at the Second Coming of the Son. Advent is a season of remembrance, but also a season of anticipation.
We assume all the wrong things will bring peace. All our lives, we have known death. Betrayal. Lies. Divorce. Insufficiency. Poverty. Suffering. War upon war. We are hopeless, helpless, unable to do enough or be enough. We reach for peace through ceasefires and negotiations, vaccinations and surgeries, generosity and trying harder. But our reach cannot go far enough. We need the Prince of Peace to come to us.
And He has.
Advent is a time of quiet peace as all the hope for restoration lies bundled and squirming in a manger. This Immanuel has come to live among us and suffer for us – a people who know suffering well. He has left His Spirit to groan and cry out with us for peace, to empower us to be peacemakers, to be our deposit for perfect peace.
So if you’re crying out for peace and wondering whether you can truly celebrate the coming of the Christ during a season of suffering in your life, please light that candle of Peace. Be still and wait. He is coming again, bringing life and resurrection.
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”