As we have followed the Magi on their journey to Bethlehem, so we’ve lit the Advent candles of HOPE, JOY, LOVE, and today we’ll will be lighting the candle of PEACE.
In doing so, we’ve acknowledged how our HOPE – because it’s in Christ & not just in ourselves – is always so much beyond even the worst of our disappointments, losses, our griefs and despairs. It’s a hope that gives us the perspective that – whatever we are/or could ever be facing – God’s got this. That’s especially helpful to remember as we deal with the loss of SO much during this Covid pandemic. In Christ we always have hope for something more, something better… It’s this CHRIST-HOPE that generates JOY, which is so much more than simply a ‘happiness’ that may come and go depending on what’s going on in our lives – an undergirding JOY which lifts & holds us in all of our circumstances. And then there’s God’s AGAPE-LOVE which is given as the ‘currency’, to empower all of this. We’re speaking about the God who self-discloses as being so much more than any of our institutional or doctrinal statements and beliefs. This is the God whom we are told[i] actually is LOVE, and that it’s those who live together in love, who live together in God. This is Christ-LOVE, something sacred, something so utterly much more than just loyalty or friendship or attraction – it’s something holy, and wholly dedicated purely toward the welfare of the other. When there is love like that – there is the hope/joy/possibility for PEACE…
Which brings us to this 4th Advent Sunday and the candle of PEACE. This is Christ’s peace which, we are told by St Paul[ii], passes all understanding! This is PEACE offered/ embraced/ lived, and is the point of –everything! It’s PEACE with others/ with creation/ with God/ and perhaps primarily, including all of these – it’s PEACE with ourselves!
The Hebrews have an all-embracing/ all-encompassing understanding of what this word means: SHALOM, describing a state of wholeness where it’s the bringing back into order that which has been shattered – lost in disorder! We begin every Trinity Church Board meeting by reciting our vision statement, which affirms how we see a world that lives into the wholeness of God’s peace – God’s SHALOM. We then define SHALOM as:
…the hope of the prophets: enemies reconciled, injustices righted, hurts healed, fears calmed and communities prospering. God’s mission is to bring the whole of creation into harmony; peace with God, peace between the nations, peace with the created order. We understand ourselves as Followers of Jesus who are invited to work with God in this peace-making mission.
Having been made in the image of God – yes, constantly distracted by our own Egos & Small-Self agendas – but having been made in God’s image – it’s understood that in embracing God’s SHALOM we embrace our having been eternally restored by God, within the Covenant of God’s grace. That’s just what the New Testament writers understood as being the whole essence of what Jesus did/ and still does. It’s what we mean whenever we pray Christ’s Peace to be with one another.
God’s best intention is to have us live lives that reflect all of the loving, just, & essential beauty of God’s character. Scripture calls that ‘best intention’ God’s ‘LOGOS’ or ‘MINDSET!’ It’s what we understand BY God’s WORD – what we understand IS GOD’S WORD!
But – on our own – we find it virtually impossible to live up to who and what we actually know we are given to be and do in God’s image! We so easily allow our small Ego-Selves to obfuscate and hide our most God-given, most Christ-revealed identity! We allow so much to trip us up, and to do so over and over again. WE forget who we are!
Well, at Christmas, we celebrate how that LOGOS/that WORD OF GOD got tired of waiting for us to come back to what we are and so, instead, in Christ Jesus became flesh and is come to us!
And now we know that – somehow – from Him, through Him, because of Him, we can own our own place once again within God’s essence.
THAT is the PEACE which God actualised with Jesus’ birth! THAT is the PEACE which Christ announcedafter His resurrection! …SHALOM! Remember how that realisation was enough to empower the terrified disciples who’d been huddled together behind locked doors after Jesus’ death – to throw open those previously locked doors to go out! Bear witness! And live!
THIS IS THE EFFECT OF GOD’S OWN EMPOWERING, LIBERATING PEACE AT WORK! NOT GIVEN JUST FOR US TO HAVE, BUT TO DO! I love that piece of protester wisdom: that with NO JUSTICE, there can be NO PEACE! Just as it is to KNOW JUSTICE, is for us to KNOW PEACE!
We come alive with anticipation as we light the first candle of HOPE, and feel JOY as this second candle begins to warm our souls. And as the LOVE flame of Christ energises us/compels us to action, so we are given to express it all by our living into & within God’s own SHALOM.
It’s awesome that we – the CHURCH – while not God’s only plan for the world – are still somehow God’s first plan – it’s certainly the whole reason for why we are here! …it’s why we exist! We are created/we are intended to BE this one thing: to be the channels/conduits that God uses to bring all creation into an awareness of all of our belovedness and worth! Our prayer is that we would be as St Francis prayed: Channels of God’s peace: Where there is hatred, for God to let us bring God’s love! Where injury, God’s pardon! Where doubt, true faith! Where despair – hope! Where darkness – light! And where there’s sadness – joy!
May we find wonderfully creative ways for our presence to be the Christ-mass present we would best offer one another.
WHAT WOULD BEING CHANNELS OF GOD’S PEACE MEAN FOR YOU?
Oh, and as we do so, may we know NOT ONLY the wonder of Christ’s Christmas birth within us, but also the PEACE/PURPOSE that His presence brings for others through us:
PEACE ON EARTH YES, BUT STARTING WITH US!
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
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[i] 1 John 4:16
[ii] Philippians 4;7