Thinking more about the “themes” of the weeks of Advent (hope, peace, joy, and love), it seems to me that there’s a challenging and counter-intuitive aspect to all of these.
It’s all well and good to reflect on these ideas and concepts. They are aspirational, and you could do a lot worse than to try and live them out on a given day or week.
But for me, I’ve found that it’s really difficult for me to “try” to be loving, peaceful, joyful, and hopeful. In fact, the more I try to be any of these things, the more I can end up bearing down and gritting my teeth, determined as hell to be loving, etc.
Then, when I come up against someone who is really a challenge to love (because I always do), I end up losing my temper (which I sometimes do), or maybe at best “loving them” while I’m hoping that they feel guilty for how much love I’m showing them (sarcasm intended, and yes I usually end up doing this as well).
Does it really work this way?
It’s really difficult for me to “aim” at love, joy, hope, and peace.
Luckily, I’ve found a better way.
I don’t aim at these values; I aim at surrender.
For me to have a little Advent in my life, I need to surrender my agenda, my will, my way, my plans, even what I think to be true of myself and the world.
I surrender all of this, and I subject myself to the Lord of Advent, to Jesus and His Spirit, and allow myself to be formed, led, and shaped into someone who can actually be a bit more loving, joyful, hopeful, and peaceful.
It’s HIS job to shape me. It’s my job to surrender.