In this Advent message, Rev. Kit Billings, pastor at the LaPorte New Church, discusses how the season of Advent can help us go within and engage the spiritual dynamics of receiving and welcoming the divine peace into our lives.
The Season of Advent is our time of preparation for celebrating Christmas—the birth of Immanuel, “God with us.” This is a very holy, sacred and spiritually influential time, if we approach this season of giving with depth, warmth and a humble attitude. Last Sunday we honored Advent as a Season of hope, and today we are so blessed to honor Advent as a Season of…peace.
Like me do you find yourself fairly often in life longing for peace? Not so much the outward or physical kinds of peace, where worldly strife and wars are no more, but rather, inward peace…when all forms of worry, anxiety and discontent inside ebb and flow away.
Have you ever felt this kind of deep-down spiritual peacefulness inside? When you feel whole, closely connected or “at one” with the Lord, when Heaven has somehow descended deep within your heart and mind, and you’re then completely sure that the Lord is more real than your left foot—ever-present, always loving and who has all of life held securely in His Divine Hands.
On this second Sunday of Advent, my friends, let’s settle down and open ourselves up wide inside to let God speak to us now, about peace. For aren’t we here together right now, in part, to worship the “Prince of Peace”?
During one of France’s wars with Britain in the mid 1800s, a train carrying dispatches to France’s headquarters was compelled to go over sixty miles of very rough track, and reach its destination within an hour. The engineer was the bearer of the dispatches, and his wife and child were in the coach. Every moment threatened to pitch the train over the embankment or over a bridge, and, as it rolled from side to side, leaping at times almost in the air, rushing past stations, the few people inside held their breath and often cried out with terror as they sped along. There was one on that train, however, who knew nothing of their fears and that was the child of the engineer. Happy as a bird, she laughed aloud when asked if she were not afraid, and looked up and answered, “Why, my father is at the engine.” A little later, the engineer came into the car to cheer up his wife and, as he wiped the great drops of sweat from her face, the child leaped into his arms and laid her head upon his bosom, as happy and peaceful as when at home. What a lesson and illustration for the children of the Heavenly Father!
In my experience of ordinary life, we tend to think of “peace” as basically “a lack of conflict.” As a nation, if we’re not at war people will sometimes say, “Isn’t it good that we’re in a time of peace?” But on the spiritual wavelength of life, peace is something much more potent and influential. The power of peace that was coming into our world 2020 years ago was much more active, vigorous and transformational than the cessation of wars on Earth. At the heart of Life itself, all truly human beings are constantly being invited by God to put aside our common definition of “peace,” where we tend to see it as the “lack of physical conflict,” and instead look at it as the active spiritual effects of non-conflict.
The power of peace flowing into us from the Lord is a force drawing things together and unifying them—and these graces are the result of God’s Love regenerating us, changing us, making us more and more into His image and likeness.
The peace of God flows much farther and deeper than our understanding may be able to fathom, as the healing wavelengths of God’s Spirit are God’s perfect love married to His perfect wisdom! Like me, have you often felt the beginning wavelengths this warm, gentle Divine Force of peacefulness inside whenever you choose freely to enter into a time of worship? Often I feel the first influence of God’s goodness and peacefulness simply by walking inside of our church. We feel this inward Force of peace whenever we allow ourselves to be drawn to the Lord, described in our teachings as: “peace in the heavens is the Divine nature intimately affecting everything good there with blessedness.” (Secrets of Heaven §268)*
Our theology describes the outpouring Divine influence of the Lord as like wavelengths of warmth, goodness and peaceful contentment, which come about also when the desires of our hearts are aligned with what we know is true from God’s Word. And so, a hallmark of spiritual regeneration is a gradual increase of the Lord’s peacefulness, as we choose to move toward the Lord and His Kingdom of Heaven. This beautiful movement of God’s Spirit reaches our hearts and minds whenever we choose to engage in the Lord’s Holy Word, not so that we can win Scriptural arguments or try to prove that my beliefs are better than someone else’s, but simply when all I want to do is love others better, to listen more than to speak, to love within the Good News proclaimed on that first Christmas night!
And so, like the shepherds, when I humble myself like a child as they did, wanting the Lord’s angels to lead me back into the simplicity and goodness of Christmas, then the Lord is able to work His wonders inside of my heart and mind.
As we read in Divine Providence n. 125, “The Lord leads us by inflowing and teaches us by enlightenment.”** (Divine Providence §165) In other words, the Lord touches and teaches us from the inside. He flows into our souls with His Love and enlightens us inwardly with spiritual Light. As Christ said Himself, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”*** (Luke 17:20-21)
Indeed my friends, the Lord’s primary work is to change us inwardly. Advent and Christmas, then, are like an annual re-invitation from God to prepare ourselves for new birthings of internal peace. This preparation in part requires us to examine ourselves and repent of our evils and sins, which stand in the way of us receiving the Lord anew. I hear this glorious message echoed in Isaiah’s timeless words when he said:
“How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
‘Your God reigns!'”(Isaiah 52:7)***
May your journey into the Light, the heat and the goodness of the Prince of Peace be steady and deeply real for you, full of joy and peace, the way that a little girl or boy warmly embraces their mommy or daddy in the morning at the sun’s new day!
*Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. Translated by George F. Dole, West Chester, PA, Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.
**Swedenborg, Emanuel. Divine Providence. Translated by George F. Dole. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2003.
***New King James Version Bible. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Rev. Kit Billings, his wife Penny, and their daughter Julia moved to LaPorte, Indiana in 2012, where he is Pastor of the LaPorte New Church, a historic Swedenborgian sacred space.
Kit enjoys ministering with people of all ages, and supporting others in their journey of growth with the Lord.