ADVENT: PEACE - Ann Voskamp

As Christmas approaches, our focus this week is on peace – the peace we have because a Savior was born to us. Best-selling author and speaker, Ann Voskamp, shares her perspective on peace during the Advent season. Ann has her own journey of brokenness and being bound up and healed by Jesus. Many of us, like Ann, have experienced loss. She shares how she finds peace even in the midst of shattered dreams, lost expectations, and grief.

Advent is all about the Prince of Peace coming to us. We sing about it in our Christmas carols. Even as we hear the lyrics, “Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth” we may wonder, “Peace? Is there peace under my own roof?” How do we find peace when our lives are full of chaos, or our hearts are broken? Our story may not be going how we want or ever expected it to. At Christmas time, everyone’s lives can look so shiny and wrapped up with a pretty bow, both literally and figuratively, while our lives may not look the way we imagine or hope.

This year, Ann has felt that internal struggle between grief and peace, while decorating her tree and getting ready for Christmas. She finds her heart longing for connection to the Prince of Peace, longing for Him and for rest within her grief. That feeling of homesickness reminds her that her place on earth, this season, and these experiences, aren’t truly our home. Our hearts long for something more, something different, something unmarred by the pain of our earthly experiences. We long for Jesus and our heavenly home with Him. That homesickness is a longing for shalom, the peace and completeness we find only in our connection with God. That longing is a sign that our home is with Him.

Instead of thinking that peace is a place, a location, or a different story, Ann says, “Peace is a person , the person of Jesus, who says “I am the God who is with you, Emmanuel”. She continues, “I can be living a story that I don’t want to be living. Regardless of the circumstances or situation though, my peace is found in a person, a person who is with me. So regardless of what my story looks like, this Advent and Christmas season, I am going to stay with the story of God, stay with God Himself who is my peace.”Ann says she has to keep coming back to that truth over and over again, “Peace is not a place. Peace is a Person. And that Person is with me, right here, right now.”
As we our lives change, as we lose people we love, or we move into directions we never intended, the holidays look so different than what we wanted. In our grief and in our search for peace, we can get wrapped up in the things we long for and wish we had.  Ann shares in a recent blog, “Peace isn’t a matter of circumstances. It’s a matter of focus. We wage peace when we pay all of our attention on Christ. Peace isn’t a place. Peace is a person, a person that you walk with every day.”

How do we pursue Peace that passes all understanding?
Ann says it all comes down to what we focus on most. Her therapist reminds her often that what you pay attention to is what you will remember and anticipate in the future. What we pay attention to becomes our perspective - the lens we see things through. If we are looking through a lens of lack, through a lens of chaos, or at all the things we wish were different about our story, then we will remember our story that way and we will anticipate more of the same coming at us. “But”, says Ann, “if we choose to wage peace - and it is a battle, it requires that kind of proactive intentionality - it means I choose to focus my attention on that which is good, that which is right, that which is pure, that which is Jesus.”

When we do that, we begin to see the world differently. We will look at broken situations and be able to see the face of Jesus in our circumstances. As we look at the people in our lives, we will see them through that lens. When we keep our perspective on Him, seeing Him at work, seeing everything through His filter of love, then we will find more peace. We will be ushering in more peace in our lives and with those around us.

To keep our focus on Jesus, we don’t have to muster up our own encouragement or “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”. We need Him and His Holy Spirit to bring us fresh revelation from His Word. We can choose to intentionally stay in the presence of God by remembering that the life we need comes from Him. We need scripture, daily, that points us to Him and that reminds us to receive His peace. Ann writes down new verses every day as “fresh manna” to sustain her throughout her day. She recognizes her need for His Spirit and His living and active word. This is what we all need to help us pay attention to where God is at work in the world. And He is always working to take the broken pieces of our lives and work them for good.  

“He is working His redemptive story out of our broken stories.”
We wage peace when we ask Him to do battle for us in the middle of those stories. When we admit, “I want to focus on You in this situation, Jesus” but it’s hard. We can ask Him to wage peace in us because He is our peace, the Prince of Peace.

In our willingness to seek Him, we will experience more of the peace of God and so will the people around us. “But,” says Ann, “it’s a deliberate act every morning to stay in the story of God and carry that with me so it shapes my mind so I can take captive every thought to make it obedient to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Himself.” This is where we find rest in our homesickness for the things we wish we had – by keeping our focus on Him.

Ann says this isn’t hypothetical for her. This is her battle too. She wages for peace when she knows tsunamis waves of grief and disappointment can hit her too because of the losses and heartbreak she has experienced. She could let those waves take her out or she can choose to wage peace and pay attention to Jesus by staying in the story with Him. As much as she’s experienced deep homesickness this Christmas, missing people she wishes could be with them, she also knows she can choose to enter into Advent with anticipation. She can choose to focus on and anticipate the hope, joy, love and peace that Jesus brings.

From creation to Jesus’ return, the lineage of humanity is full of dysfunction, messiness, brokenness, and chaos. This is her family too. Regardless of how messy our history and families are, we are grafted into the family tree of God. He claims us as His own. This is the beauty and truth we can see as we look at our Christmas trees – a certainty that we are grafted into Jesus’ family tree too. From Genesis to the birth of Christ, we see God at work, waging peace for all of us. That focus can usher in peace for us, this season and going forward.

We can enter the new year knowing who we are. We are grafted into God’s family. We can flourish and thrive as His children. Ann Voskamp shares daily devotions throughout Advent for adults in her book, “The Greatest Gift”, in the tween book, “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” and in one for kids, “The Wonder of the Greatest Gift.” Each book serves to remind us to focus on Jesus. It is His redemption story from beginning to end that shapes how we view and experience our circumstances. We can look at our lives through the lens of His love and His provision and let that perspective transform how we see things. This is where we find peace. It’s not in a place, it’s not in our circumstances. Peace is the Person of Jesus, come to earth, to abide with us, who gave Himself over for the redemption of our broken and messy lives. He came to give us His peace - Peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Find Ann’s books and more at annvoskamp.com. Follow her on Instagram @annvoskamp.

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