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Receiving the PeaceBy Br. Curtis Almquist
Meghan Vail is a middler in the Master of the Arts in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care program. Meghan comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the University of Texas Catholic Center.
On the tenth day of Christmas, I was stranded at the airport in southern Florida (I’ll admit, not the worst place to be stranded) along with hundreds of other holiday travelers en route to reality after the restfulness of Christmas vacation. Every terminal gate blinked “cancelled” in bright red letters due to winter storms. As I stood in line to rebook my flights, trying to recall my sense of humor and shed my crankiness, I found myself humming the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” trying to insert gifts for airport travelers that would come in handy in the midst of airport chaos. Three cafe mochas (french hens), two Apple product chargers (turtledoves), and a voucher for a latter day flight.
While each of these fleeting gifts might hit the spot for a frenzied traveler, today’s lessons call to mind other images of lasting gifts brought to us with the coming of the Christ child. From the prophet Jeremiah, brooks of water and a straight path in which [we will] not stumble. From Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, enlightenment, glorious grace, and knowledge of the hope to which we have been called.
In his book Unwrapping the Gifts: The Twelve Days of Christmas, Blandy lecturer Br. Curtis Almquist describes another profound gift in his January 5th reflection: the gift of peace. In his reflection, Br. Almquist does not speak of the peace that a weary airport traveler might discover when flights have been rescheduled, rides have been arranged, and luggage has been recovered at the baggage claim. “‘Peace as the world gives’ is dependent upon outward circumstances,” he points out, citing John 14:27 (86). Rather, Almquist speaks of an inward peace, the peace that “antedates our being peacemakers” and really “is about our being peace-receivers, practicing a posture of reception of peace” (89).
Spiritually, if we are like a stranded airport traveler that is lost in the crowd, we might be deeply in need of receiving the peace that is given by the Child in the manger to the lost sheep, the leper, the blind and the lame, and the poor in spirit. Perhaps in our Christmas journey we are like Mary and Joseph returning from Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel, searching for Jesus, and puzzled to discover that Jesus stayed behind in his Father’s house all along. We find Him when we revisit the manger or the temple and receive the otherworldly peace of the Kingdom. May you receive the ongoing gift of peace as you journey forward with the hope to which you have been called.
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