December 11, 2020
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Several words jump off the page in these next few verses – all in relationship to the shepherds. Let’s go and see. They hurried off. They spread the word. These few verses represent a flurry of activity for the shepherds. It might feel similar to your past few weeks, or your upcoming weeks as we head into Christmas. But remember – our thoughts this week are centered around the concept of peace. We’ve looked at peace when circumstances are out of our control, and when we are afraid. Today, we look at peace in the midst of activity.
One of the hardest things to do is to keep our minds peaceful when our bodies are in a hurry. Our brain interprets our physical state and applies it to our emotional state. An elevated heart rate and sweat are often interpreted as worry, fear, or excitement. It’s one of the reasons the chronically anxious are encouraged to cut out caffeine. Caffeine replicates the body’s response to stress and makes it harder for our brains to sort through anxious thoughts and feelings. Similarly, when we’re rushing through our day, our bodies want to interpret our physical hurry as a mental one. Suddenly, non-emergencies can take on a heightened tone and feeling. If you’re like me, that means you’re more likely to drive angrily between appointments, or get frustrated when your list doesn’t get done.
So now, imagine the shepherds. They have the biggest news the world has ever seen. And it’s their job to share it. They are rushing to confirm the angel’s words. They’re trying to convince everyone they meet that the good news is true. How do they do all that and still have peace? For guidance, we can look to someone who seems to have mastered this art.
In the 1600s, a monk named Brother Lawrence wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. His primary role was in the kitchen and his perspective on peace during his workday was this:
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament.
In other words, “I feel as peaceful at work as I do in prayer.” One of Brother Lawrence’s secrets was that he viewed the simplest acts as worship. Washing dishes was viewed as a spiritual opportunity. From this transformed foundation, even the bustle of a large kitchen didn’t have the power to distract from his inner peace. How would your day change if you saw your list, as mundane as it might be, as opportunities to worship? What if you were moving, not just from task to task, but from conversation to conversation with Jesus? How might that change your relationships with co-workers, family, or friends? How might your inner monologue change while cleaning the house, editing a paper, or struggling to meet a deadline? I don’t pretend this is an easy task, but I do know that with diligent practice, we can move quickly, be highly effective, and live in a state of peace with God.