We’re less than two weeks into December, and I don’t know about you, but I need a break. My sensory overload is at a maximum. My calendar is overbooked, but what am I supposed to let go of? Everything this time of year feels necessary. Important. Like it won’t be Christmas unless I make it to every party, every sale, every program. Many of us experienced a Christmas season (or two or three) where it didn’t feel safe to gather, which lends even more import to the opportunities we get to gather and celebrate now. I must say, though, it feels like the only thing not on my schedule or my to-do list right now is time to breathe.
I have to believe I’m not the only one in this boat. Christmas is mere weeks away, and all I need is some peace and quiet. It’s funny, though. I don’t think “peace and quiet” is what Isaiah meant when he conveyed God’s message, “Comfort, O comfort my people…” Or, more specifically, I don’t think he meant quiet. Quiet isn’t the right adjective for the just peace that we are both waiting for and called to live into as we wait in this season. No, this just peace cries out not from halls of power but from the wilderness. It is a peace that refuses to stand by and be quiet while all the things that keep us from right relationship with God, one another, and all creation remain.
So, as you plan worship, don’t be afraid to get a little loud. Help your people find their voices. Imagine how to make the passing of the peace a communal act of just peace. Invite congregants to participate in prayer by naming the places where they see a need for peace and a proclamation of comfort in your community. Sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” (United Methodist Hymnal, 431) or “For the Healing of the Nations” (United Methodist Hymnal, 428) or “Peace for the Children” (Worship & Song, 3125) as a response to God’s call to live as doers of just peace.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for quiet. God’s just peace may not be quiet, but quiet is absolutely necessary for us to be able to participate in God’s just peace. We are paradoxical beings. The more we are overstimulated, the less we are able to connect with one another and with God. We need time and space to quiet the constant input, so we can listen and notice and connect with God and with our neighbors. So, set aside time for your congregation to rest in the quiet and breathe deeply. Create and curate visuals in your worship space that are uncluttered and calm. Choose to move through the liturgy deliberately and slowly. Offer the community the gift of silence, even if they are hesitant to receive it as a gift. Let the piano or a solo instrument be part of the proclamation, declaring life and peace to the part of us that understands beyond words. However you approach this balance between quiet preparation and loud declaration, remember this: peace requires community to live and breathe and thrive. So, may your worship form and strengthen a community that waits for and participates with God’s just peace.
Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts Ministries, served as an organist and music minister in United Methodist congregations in the Northwest Texas and North Texas Annual Conferences, as well as the New Day Amani/Upendo house churches in Dallas. After receiving her Master of Sacred Music and Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology, Lisa earned her PhD in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University wherein she researched and wrote on the doctrine of Christ, disability, and atonement.