by Chris Nickels, Pastor of Spring Mount Mennonite Church
(Originally posted at MennoniteRoad.com; reposted with permission)
Each year my congregation (along with a number of local churches and non-profit organizations) participates in a local witness called the Witting Tree. On a tree in front of the meetinghouse we solemnly hang dog tags to remember and raise awareness that 20+ veterans commit suicide each day. And we recommit to being a compassionate presence for our veteran neighbors and their families, in light of the often unseen burdens of moral injury, traumatic stress, and return from war.
We put the tags up on Veterans Day, and it dawned on me this year that we take them down as the season of Advent begins. The temperature was cold with a slight wind, and each time I removed a metal tag there was a chiming sound as it gently touched the nearest branch. I heard twenty-two chimes as I worked, once again reminding me of twenty-two servicemembers and neighbors who may be struggling.
So I decided to pray through the themes of Advent while I was out at the tree. Hope, peace, joy, and love seemed an appropriate request, as these are longings I have heard as I listened to my veteran friends over the past few years.
If you like, pray with me…
I pray for hope…for those who have lost faith in the promises made to them, and for those who wonder what the next day will bring.
I pray for peace…for a journey home that leads to welcome and healing, and for our nation to break the cycle of endless war.
I pray for moments of joy within the dark nights of the soul. And for friendship and community to share in joyful moments with.
I pray for love…that each one would know that they are loved, both by their Creator and their neighbor, and that we would embody this love in meaningful ways.