Advent 2015—Week 2—PEACE
Advent is the season of expectant preparation for the coming of Jesus, God’s one and only Son, into the world.
It is marked with candles and music and the reading of Scripture. Many families create an advent wreath with 4 candles. Frequently, three of the candles are purple and one is pink. Some will include a white candle in the center of the wreath, unlit until Christmas Eve.
The traditional themes of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. This week we focus on the biblical message of Peace.
The Bible’s message of Peace is different from the world’s message of peace. The world focuses on an absence of conflict. Peace, for many, is a permanent cessation of hostility, whatever the cost. Some would say, we must have peace at any price. The Bible focuses on Peace with God. The result of sin’s forgiven and life lived under His lordship.
The readings will be posted on our Church website as well. So, you can follow along “on the road”. My prayer for us this Advent is that we will grow in our relationship with God who loves us and has invited us to partner with him in getting his message out into the world where we live. God bless us all, this Advent season.
The Path of Peace
Zechariah, in his old age, finally has a son. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he speaks a prophetic message regarding his future mission. God has great things in store for him, and for us through his ministry. His son, John the Baptist, will lead the way of God’s Salvation. He will prepare the path of Peace.
Peace is defined as the “normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world; the normal freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community; public order and security; cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension” (Dictionary .com). We long for peace and we live in a world at war. Nation battles nation, groups battle other groups, families are at war with other families, there is NO PEACE! We carry our weapons with us and are constantly on guard, ready to put the other in their proper place.
John came to reveal the path of Peace. God’s peace. He came to “give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God…” (Luke 1:77-78a)
The peace he came to reveal does not come at the end of a sword or a gun. It is not the result of having the largest and most powerful arsenal the world has ever known. The Peace he came to usher in comes on a Cross, where God the Son, Jesus our Lord, gave himself up to die. Peace, God’s Peace, is the gift of God’s Amazing Grace: “Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within, Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!” (Grace Greater than Our Sin, Julia H. Johnston)
When you think about this phrase, Perfect Peace, what do you picture? Is it a sailboat gently rocking on tranquil ocean waves? Or, is perfect peace sitting by a campfire outside a rustic log cabin, carving pieces of wood off a log destined for the fire? Perhaps, for you, perfect peace is as simple as having all the children tucked in bed, listening to your favorite music, reading a favorite book, and sitting in your favorite chair. How do you picture PERFECT PEACE?
The people, who first received Isaiah’s message, were at war. Their nation was being threatened by godless people bent on taking them captive, plundering their wealth, and killing all who stood in their way. Their vision of perfect peace focused on the defeat of their enemies; really, the annihilation of their enemies, so they would no longer be threatened by them.
Their problem was they had no idea who was truly their enemy . They thought it was the nation of Assyria. They were pretty certain if they could defeat their armies all would be well. They had no idea they were the problem and their own sin was their enemy. They needed to listen to God and obey his commands. They needed to keep the Law and live holy lives. Doing what was right. They needed to trust God, not their own meager resources. They would have peace, trusting God alone!
The words of Isaiah still need to be heard by us this Advent season. Our enemy is sin, failure to trust God and obey him; we must confess our sin and turn our lives toward God. Perfect Peace comes as we focus our lives on HIM!
Peace I Leave with You
If you could leave your children and your grandchildren anything in the world, what would it be? Christmas is fast approaching, what would be the absolute best gift you could give your beloved? Give it some thought.
Jesus is preparing to leave those he loves. The Cross looms large in the foreground. He knows what lies ahead, the pain and suffering, the rejection and betrayal, the dying. He is aware his time is short, so he offers those who will be left behind a gift, really two gifts.
First, he promises the arrival of the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit who will be with them and within them. The Holy Spirit who will be present with them! Though he is leaving, the Father is not abandoning them. They will never be alone: “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
Second, he promises them HIS PEACE! The boat was rocking, the storm was raging, and Jesus was sleeping. Did he not know they were all about to die! They went to him and shook him awake. “Lord, save us! We’re about to drown!” Jesus calmly arose, scolding them for their lack of faith; then, he rebuked the wind and the waves, and the sea became calm! Peace was restored (read the story in Matt. 8:23-27). Jesus lived at peace. He did not live in fear and he wanted to give his followers the gift of PEACE! Peace with and from God!
This Advent receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let him have control of your life, and live in PEACE!
Peace through Suffering
The prophet, Isaiah, delivered a series of messages we call the Servant Songs of Isaiah. They are beautiful words describing one who would come and deliver God’s Salvation. The passage we read today is the song of the Suffering Servant. Much has been written about this passage, it is frequently read during the Easter season.
In Acts 8:26-40, we read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. The Eunuch, a God-fearer, a gentile who worshipped the God of the Jews, who kept the Law, and did all he could to live as a believer, had been to Jerusalem to worship. On his way home, he was reading this passage and Philip was placed in his path by the Spirit of God. He asked Philip, “…who is the prophet talking about?” Philip, then, told him about Jesus. He told him that Jesus had come to bring peace between God and man, dying on the Cross, to reveal God’s amazing love and unconditional grace.
The Eunuch was amazed to hear such good news and asked, “Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” This was a loaded question, for Jewish law prevented him from becoming a Jewish believer. Philip led him to a pool of water and baptized him there and then. The Eunuch became a Jesus’ follower and took the Gospel into Africa.
Much conflict occurs because people are not “like us”. They look different, they speak a distinct language, and eat “weird” food. They may even have a peculiar belief system. But Jesus poured himself out and suffered for them, too. This Advent season, let us speak peace to those who are “different”.
Everything was going very well, the plans I had made were being carried out, and the results were exactly as I had hoped and dreamed. I was at peace with the world and the world was at peace with me!
That is a nice place to be. But, it did not last very long. An unknown, but very wise person wrote, “Reality bites!” We live in a broken world. Bad things happen unexpectedly, right at the wrong time! My peace was shattered, my serenity lost! What was I going to do? How was I going to react?
Someone told me, “Bob, this is part of God’s plan for you. Accept it and REJOICE!”
But what had occurred was not good or loving or beautiful! It was evil, hurtful, and ugly. God does not do evil, he does not tempt us to evil (read James 1:12-18). We are not to blame God for our circumstance; rather, we are called to persevere in the face of trial.
Peace comes when we recognize that God has not abandoned us and will not abandon us. Peace comes when we confess that he is greater than our present circumstance. Peace comes when we acknowledge that he is God, and he is able to take this situation and turn it to His glory.
When, in the present dark moment, we choose to worship God and confess him as our Lord and Master, we will find PEACE! God’s peace, that is beyond human understanding, is available to all who firmly place their Hope in him.
Jesus lived in that peace, he served others in that peace. Jesus endured the pain and suffering of the Cross in that peace! He lived and died knowing that his God was near! Let us live this Advent season IN PEACE! Knowing God is near!
1 Peter 5:14
Peace Is God’s Gift!
The Apostle’s parting words, as he concludes his little letter, are: “Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ”, are Peter’s goodbye words.
The “kiss of love” always bothered me growing up. My family loved each other, but not overly so. We might, maybe, hug each other when we got together. At least the women folk did. The men (and boys), we shook each others’ hands. Guys hugging each other and giving each other a kiss, that’s what the Europeans did. Then, I married my wife. Her family hugged, male and female, they hugged. So, now, I hug, and I confess, enjoy it. I am still a little shaky with the “kiss of love” thing, though.
It is important that we let people know they are significant to us. We need to express our love to them in unmistakable ways, memorable ways. Who knows, we may not get a second chance to tell someone we love them!
Then, Peter shares peace with them, “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” He wanted to leave them with this reminder, there is peace in Christ. The world may be at war. There may be turmoil in our lives. But God’s gift to us is PEACE in Christ. Jesus came that we might have peace with God. Our sins forgiven and our lives made whole!
This Advent season let people know they are loved. Don’t be afraid to show you care about them. And, pass the peace of Christ on to them!