December 4, 2012
The Advent reading from last Sunday's service was adapted from this essay, “The Trouble with Peace” by Jordan Swisher, published with permission here in its entirety, from Our Savior Come: An Advent Companion, edited and published by Dan Schmidt in 2011.
Peace can give us trouble.
In Luke 2: 14, when the angels arrive to announce the birth of Jesus, they tell the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” But what does that peace look like? For us whose entire existence revolves around conflict and resolution, which eventually leads to more conflict, peace often means little more than the absence of conflict. Is that what the angels mean? Is this the sort of “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4: 7) that Paul says comes from God?
What we look forward to, and celebrate during Advent, is the promise of God’s peace between humanity and our creator, and then among people in their dealings with each other. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, both provides the means for enjoying it, and sets an example for achieving it.
Through Jesus we begin to understand God’s peace. Ever since the Fall, humanity has been at odds with God, but with the coming of Jesus, that can change. We are told in John 3: 17 that Jesus wasn’t sent to condemn the world, but to save it; His advent means the end of conflict with God. Because Jesus came, we can find peace with God.
Once we know peace with God, it’s more likely that we’ll want to find peace with others. When confronted with a situation that might lead to conflict, we seek peaceful solutions. We make commitments and choices that promote peace. I think about the two roommates in my apartment. It’s easy to fall into conflict with them when there is miscommunication or disagreement, even over simple things like who was going to take out the trash or do the dishes. I’m talking about small-scale conflict here, but what better place to start practicing peaceful living than among those you are closest to?
Jesus sets a perfect example of how to live peacefully with others. Look at how He solves the dispute when disciples discuss who will sit next to Jesus in Heaven. He tells them that to be great is to serve, and that even He came serve and not to be served (Mark 10: 43). Jesus shows us that, by putting others first, by practicing servitude, we promote peace.
Our experience with conflict helps us value the joy that true peace brings. And as we embrace the commitments and choices that Jesus promotes, we find peace that passes understanding. We didn’t appreciate peace to this extent before, but now we can! And we rejoice in that.
In the time of Advent, when people are talking about peace, we can celebrate the salvation God brought to us, a salvation that begins with peace between God and humankind through Jesus Christ and goes on to promote peace among all people. Advent is an excellent time to reflect on and commit to being agents for peace, following in the footsteps of our Prince of Peace.