Monday, December 6th
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NRSV)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
~ John 14:27 (NRSV)
Go to sleep in peace. God is awake. ~ Victor Hugo
“Just give it to God!” Has anyone ever tried to reassure you with those words? I don’t know about you, but I don’t find the suggestion helpful. For example, I recall a time when I served on a planning team for a major end-of-the-year honors banquet. The person who volunteered to find a venue and caterer never took any action. Instead, at every meeting, she would explain away our concerns with, “I am just giving it to God!” Well, eventually “God gave” the responsibilities to another member and me so that the banquet would be ready in time.
Today our Advent invitation is to close our eyes and rest in the peace of Christ. But genuine peace will not come from completely releasing all of our cares to God with a shrug, a sigh, and an “oh well…” concession. Our genuine peace will come from being able to share them.
In a devotional meditation from Richard Rohr, author Holly Whitaker writes:
For me, (surrender) looks like this: I pick up the baton and I run as far as I can, and I hand it over when I’m out of breath. Or actually maybe it’s like: I’m running with the baton, but the Universe is holding on to the other half of it, and we have an agreement that I’ll figure out the parts I can and hand over the parts I can’t.1
Although there will be some fears, cares, or uncertainties that, upon reflection, we find we can easily surrender to God, many of our troubles will require some action, responsibility, or decision on our part. What we can fully entrust to God is our discernment; to ask God to guide us with “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to do the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”2
We can also give our timing to God. Our troubles can seem so much worse when we are weary, when sleep eludes, when the darkness surrounds, when there is nothing to distract, when there is no action we can take at that moment. By letting God hold our troubles – just for the night – our peaceful rest will enable us to better serve when the dawn arrives. Our peaceful rest will refresh us to serve anew, reframe our muddled thoughts into greater clarity, and restore our own peaceful countenance.
This Advent, may we increase in peacefulness as we prayerfully give to God the discernment and timing of our burdens and cares. May we let God hold our troubles for the night, as we rest in the assurance that God will hold and help us through each new day. And may our restful peace shine upon others, too.
Close your eyes. Can you feel the peace of God holding your troubles for the night? Can you feel the peace of God holding YOU?
A Night Prayer
(from A New Zealand Prayer Book)3
Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.
The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of
our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
In your name we pray. Amen.
1 Holly Whitaker, Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol (Dial Press: 2021), 158–160 (found at Meditations@cac.org).
2 “Serenity Prayer” attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr.
3 A New Zealand Prayer Book. The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia: 1989, 1997.
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com