What is this? For more information, read the introduction here.
As much as there is evidence of war and conflict all around us, there are also signs of our common human longing for peace every where. Christmas cards give wishes of peace this season, and decorations call for it in lights and glitter. The news is full of both accounts of life without peace–of war, crime, poverty, violence–but also of those who are demanding peace and justice in their nations and communities. The rhetoric of peace and its allies–security, safety, justice, righteousness, fairness–are all around, sometimes used cynically, sometimes earnestly. All point, however directly or indirectly, to our desire to live in true peace.
Some of what passes in our world for peace is a thin imitation, even a mockery, of real peace. The idyllic holidays that our culture demands–the whole family around the table digging into a turkey and stuffing–can mask real pains of conflict, jealousy, resentment, abuse, painful absences. The national promises of “security” are often attempts to buy peace and safety for some at the expense of the foreigner, the prisoner, and the stranger, or with the price of wars waged in someone else’s homeland. Jesus’ world was no different than ours in this regard–the ‘peace and security’ the Roman empire promised eventually cost his people their temple and their holy city; before that, it stripped them of their rights, attempted to replace the God of Israel with worship of the Roman gods, and made the people serfs in their own land.
Jesus’ testimony to peace, the call for the peace of God’s reign, points out the lies of the Roman promise, and all the limits and duplicity of the supposed-peace that the principalities and powers of this world offer. It is the vision of an alternative rule, a different way of life, rooted and grounded in God’s power alone, that promises peace in its fullest sense–justice, righteousness, security, the biblical vision of shalom. This is the peace that we all long for, the longing that all the imitations of peace point to. This is the peace that comes from living in harmony with neighbours and strangers, and living in obedience to God’s call.
The readings this week add many voices to this longing for peace, naming and describing the peace for which we wait. In your prayers and reflections, you are invited to try on the visions of the prophets and evangelists, and to add your voice to theirs. You are invited to name those places where you desperately desire to see God’s reign of peace break out, and, as we all watch and wait, to join with Christ the Peacemaker in walking the paths of true peace.
Sunday December 4th
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2
The prophet’s long account, with its many visions of a renewed world, starts off with this description of an at-last peaceful world order, with all nations and peoples oriented to God. He dreams–like people in all ages–of an end to the wars that have plagued peoples for millenia, and suggests that the only true source of human unity and peace is in God, and is rooted in God’s Word. As we wait for the incarnation of God the Word, we continue to pray for peace for the whole world.
There’s a voice in the wilderness crying,
a call from the ways untrod:
prepare in the desert a highway,
a highway for our God!
The valleys shall be exalted,
the lofty hills brought low;
make straight all the crooked places
where the Lord our God may go!
This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Much thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.