As we anticipate the second Sunday of Advent, we meditate on peace together with this Advent Meditation offered by Brian Crisp:
Master, the tempest is raging
The billows are tossing high
The sky is o’er shadowed with blackness
No hope or help is nigh.
-James Cleveland, Peace Be Still
The Emotions’ recording breathes new life into the gospel story as they place in dialogue their current cultural surroundings with the ancient story of faith. On the seventh anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots, the neighborhood was still experiencing the blight of emboldened racism, the nation was witnessing the atrocity of Selma’s Bloody Sunday, and black bodies were continually receiving the afflictions from white supremacy. You can hear both the pain and terror when the group’s voices rise up proclaiming, “Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea or demons or men or whatever it be.”
These sentiments seem too palpable this Advent as news channels toss around reports of an impending national Muslim registry, political appointments of White Supremacists and racists, and increased incidents of hateful harassment, intimidation and violence. The surrounding environment is crashing around us drowning both hope and help. Yet, at the climax of the song when the drums have moved from a roll to a bang and the voices from a lull to a yell, the Emotions rest the energy into a languid repeating phrase, “peace . . . peace . . . peace.”
Listening to this album has been part of my morning prayers and meditation for the past two weeks, and during each listen, I am very stirred by the ostinato of “peace.” This year, my Advent peace is neither passive nor is it pacifying. Peace acknowledges that the waves are both dangerous and present while speaking calm to my inner call for justice and love. Peace resists distortion and distraction and replaces them with focus and perspective. Peace never confuses isolation and solitude, stasis and stability, calm and concession, or perseverance and platitude.
This morning, the Christmas albums are still tucked away, and “Peace Be Still” accompanied my reading of the Mark passage. The tumult of the story is well set to the rhythms and melodies of the Emotions. I could see the boat planing above whitecaps and against dark nights. I could feel pellets of rain darting on my face with their cold sting. I could touch the fear of those on the small ship holding to stern and bow facing a life-threatening storm. Finally, in the fevered pitch, I hear a pleading shrill, “Wake up, Jesus!” There is a moment where Brother Jesus meets everyone’s eyes, and although the storm may still be raging, they are all safe. Resting into each other, calmed by their human presence, he replies, “I am awake, are you?”