Advent 2: Peace

Peace…it is a word we talk about a lot but don’t really see much in our world.  It is a concept that seems out of reach all too often.  We live in a world that we cannot even disagree on a subject and get along…and since we are not all the same and don’t all think or believe the same…it seems that peace is out of reach.  To even consider what peace might look like and what we might do for peace…that brings anxiety…there is so much division and hatred in our wold…politically, religiously, and any other way you might think.  And we might think peace would come if we could just be still and have a moment of quiet.  When my children were really young, I craved quiet and silence because it never happened.  There was always something to do and places to be…I thought that just a moment of quiet would be peaceful.  The problem is that this type of peace is temporary.  And if you have spent a significant amount of time alone, you likely know that even being in quiet and stillness does not mean that you will experience peace.  We can experience turmoil all by ourselves…in the quiet…of our own home.  So what is the deal with peace and how do we look expectantly to something that seems so far out of reach?

I think one key begins with a hymn which you may or may not know or have sung.  There have been some absolutely beautiful arrangements of this particular song…one of my personal favorites is by Casting Crowns…and the hymn is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” – hear the words of the song:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men
And the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
In my heart I hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
But the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on earth)
Does anybody hear them? (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep (peace on earth, peace on earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men
Then ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men
And the bells they’re ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on earth)
And with our hearts we’ll hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Do you hear the bells they’re ringing? (peace on earth)
The life the angels singing (peace on earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
Peace on earth, peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

A beautiful song with a powerful message…Given that, let’s look at the scripture for today:  Luke 2:8-20

As we began to see last week in regard to hope…God has chosen the most unlikely people in the most unlikely situation to experience the greatest gift since creation…Jesus.  Mary was chosen as the recipient of hope that was coming to the world.  Now, we see shepherds doing what shepherds do…watching their flock at night.  They are minding their own business, doing the shepherding thing…and an angel shows up.  When angels show up, there seems to be something going on.  Mary was given a message…now the shepherds receive a message.  Different people from different situations in life…brought together by common messengers…with an amazing message from God.  They are receiving GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY!  But the news…the news is that the Messiah has come…is here…has arrived…and with that news…a heavenly chorus sings…Glory to God in the highest…and on earth, peace…

NOT the peace of a conquering king…not the peace of a ruling emperor…not the peace of lands coming together…not even the peace that the religious people thought they wanted and deserved…but peace from God.  Peace on earth was brought through Jesus…and was a light in a dark world.  Jesus was peace…and yet, not at all like they wanted, expected, or were looking.  So many missed the peace that had come because they were looking for it in all the wrong places.  Will we miss it too?

Jesus, in what we call the Sermon on the Mount, and in the part known as the Beatitudes, said… “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Do you think there is a correlation between the angels announcing peace on earth at the pronouncement of the birth of Christ…and Jesus calling those who are peacemakers, children of God?  I think so…Jesus makes the difference!

If Jesus is the peace on earth…that means HE is the peace in us.  If peace was brought to this world at the birth of Jesus, peace continues as long as his light shines on this earth…and that happens through believers…those that call upon the name of the Lord and follow him with their lives.  Peace on earth is not found in political leaders making the right decisions or laws in place to bring peace…if that was so, peace would not have had to be announced by angels when Jesus came.  Peace is here and is yet to come.  Peace is within us and yet we often act like the LEAST peaceful people ever.  We act like we are missing something…and I think sometimes we are…and what we are missing is Jesus and his message…we are missing PEACE.

We have to stop waiting for others to create peace for us…we have to stop looking forward to a day when our lives might be more peaceful or when our world may have peace…we cannot sit around hoping that someone else will be the peaceful one…all the while claiming that we love and follow Jesus…speaking his name but not following his way.  Peace began with Jesus and continues in US…or at least SHOULD continue in us.  In order to dig just a little deeper…how was Jesus peace?

He wasn’t peace by allowing things to happen as they always had…he made quite a statement…he confounded the religious, he questioned the rules, he spoke against hatred, he taught what it meant to love, he interrupted the daily lives of people that thought everything was all okay, he poked and prodded the comforts of those that SAID they loved God to SHOW they loved God…he didn’t sit idly by and watch others… Instead, he changed lives…he healed, he ate, he loved, he offered his life, he WAS peace in a world that lacked any sense of it.

For me, that means we can live in a world of turmoil and have the peace of Christ.  We can function in a world that is divisive with a peace that confounds and confuses others…we can live in a world filled with hate and share peace because we have no reason to hate and no right to hate and no room to hate… We don’t need the world to change us, we need to be the change in the world!  We don’t need to wait until this world becomes more peaceful…we need to bring the peace into this world that is so broken and battered.  We do this by living like Christ…by doing what he has called us to do…by walking in his footsteps…by loving, feeding, clothing, visiting the least of these…by being different.  We do not get there by being another person that hates or feuds or fuels a fire…but by being the light of Christ in a darkness that can be conquered…

Peace on earth…I hear it, I feel it, it lives in us.  How will you bring peace to someone today?  Remember, blessed are the peacemakers…for they are children of God.  Let us go in peace.

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