Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Week One: Peace

The first idea we proclaim this year in our Advent cycle is peace.  Peace is one of those words whose meaning changes depending on the context.  In our world today, peace is largely defined as an absence of conflict.  But peace has more meaning to it than that.  Peace is calm, serenity, even acceptance.  How many of us have heard stories of people who, in the midst of a tremendous crisis, describe a sense of peace descending upon them?  Peace doesn't necessarily mean that the conflict is gone so much as it can mean finding calm in the midst of that conflict.

As we read in the Gospel of John, Jesus gives to us his peace (John 14:27).  Jesus also points out that this peace is not given as the world gives.  In our world, it seems, peace is sought after by making sure that our enemies (whomever they might be at the time) are thoroughly decimated to the point where they cannot retaliate.  In other words, peace is equated with winning.  But that isn't what Jesus is talking about.

The peace of God, described as transcending all understanding (Philippians 4:7) does not arrive from winning a conflict.  In fact, it is often to be found during the conflict.  That's because the peace of God can be thought of as a fragment or a sliver of the larger presence of God (remember that this is all belonging to a God whose peace and totality are beyond our full comprehension).  That peace is given not because we have won, earned, or somehow acquired it by our own means.  It is, instead, given as a gift to us.

But we have to learn how to be people of peace.  We have to learn how to be at peace and offer peace.  If we Christians could get our acts together and live out lives of peace, then perhaps the conflicts across the world would not be so rampant.  Perhaps we could be the peacemakers rather than the sword-makers.  Because the peace of God is described as that which enables us to beat our swords into plowshares and study war no longer (Isaiah 2:4).

What a gift we could give to the world if we learned to accept the peace of God!  May we all, during this Advent season and beyond, strive to be people of peace - a people of peace that comes from God.

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