It was an interesting thing celebrating Advent this past year. As a church, we observed it more than our tradition is typically known to do. Advent is the beginning of the Church calendar which holds different meanings for people. It is a reflective journey to prepare the heart for the coming of the Messiah King with an eye on the path to the Cross, and His expectant return.
It is a time where we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace. As we were doing this, focusing our attention and meditating on Peace, the world was being torn apart. Waves of stories of protests, insurgency, bombings, disasters, violence and shootings filled our screens. In front of me were two conflicting pictures rivalling for my resolve. It didn’t matter if it was across the world, or right here in our “own backyard”, actual working peace is really hard to find.
So what do we do with this message of peace? Has it become a tired notion? It is hard to hold to the message of peace tightly, when so much strife and chaos seemingly rule the day, and night. Yet, to give up on peace is not a satisfying solution. For our hearts will betray our minds and long for it nontheless. Those who live in the midst of the deepest darkness cry even louder and desperately for it. And so the tension continues.
Despite the idyllic pictures of the nativity scene, the world at that time was not one of peace. It was a time of religious and political unrest. Jerusalem was under Roman control, even though Jewish culture was tolerated to an extent. Rome ruled the world with brutal force. The Hebrews lived under threat of violence. Ironically, it was this dark time of history that the announcement of peace was declared. Why that time, and what does this mean for the world today? A couple thoughts come to mind.
First, if the first Advent in history was “just the right time” for God’s biggest moment, then He must not be intimidated by the dark and violent tendencies of humanity. Perhaps this is a hint that God is more powerful than He seems to be when we look around our world. If true, He has a better way.
Second, peace may in fact be more powerful than we give it credit. I think we, at our own disservice, reduce peace to merely mean “no conflict”, or “no war”. It is much more than that. The biblical word for peace, shalom, means completeness, soundness, contentment and blessing.
Peace is God’s non-weapon of choice in response to evil. It cannot be ushered in by force, or through legislation, or intimidation. Instead, it comes in humility, and servitude, with forgiveness and self-giving love. It comes vulnerable, like an infant child. It must be nurtured and cared for, and protected. And as it grows, so too does it’s influence in our world. Peace is not an idea, or a strategy or even a dream. It stands on it’s own. Peace has a face, and hands and a heart. Peace has a name. Jesus.
So we see this light shining in the darkness, and with all it’s fury the darkness cannot extinguish it. Good news indeed! The burden of peace now falls on our shoulders, if we be so bold as to pick up this light, and carry it.