“Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace.”
(name that tune)
I’ll never forget the advent calendar we had growing up. It was made of fabric, hung on the wall next to our staircase, and had a little pocket for every day leading up to Christmas. On the top was a velcro tree with a bunch of little cloth gifts – candy canes, gift boxes, and toys. Every day, my brother and I would take turns removing a gift from the tree and putting them in the daily pocket. We would get more and more excited every day as the little tree got emptier and emptier, because the day we removed that last gift, we knew we were getting the real deal – actual presents under our actual tree. Sometimes I wished I could just move 5 at a time to make Christmas come that much faster.
Advent is all about anticipation. So in that sense, my childhood advent calendar served its purpose well. But as I grew up I realized more of the deeper meaning of this significant part of the Christian calendar. It is actually about anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’ “adventus” – or “coming” - into our world. For some, advent ends with anticipation of gifts under the tree. For others, it ends with the anticipation of Jesus’ birth. While that sounds sufficient, our participation in advent isn’t complete unless we reflect on the depths of what Jesus’ birth actually means for our world. It can’t simply end with images of an “8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus” with a donkey and some wise men.
So what did Jesus’ birth mean for us? Last week we heard from Jay in Denver about the hope that we have because of this historic event. Today I’d like to say a little about the peace that Jesus’ advent brings. It’s easy to have a misguided view of peace. It goes beyond the absence of conflict and tension. Two people can hate and avoid each other their whole lives, which may fit that definition, but it’s not peace. It’s more than that.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1)
The biblical word for “peace” comes from the Hebrew word, “shalom”, which is more than just simply peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony1. When we reflect on and accept that God loves us so much, that he sent His Son into the world to live among us, struggle with us, love us, forgive us, guide us in truth, heal us, and ultimately save us from our sins, we can stop fighting. We can stop fighting each other over petty things, and we can stop fighting God over what we want for our lives. Everything is put in its proper place. And there’s shalom. This has huge implications in our personal lives, in our families, and in our cities. This advent season, may you experience life-altering peace with God.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
-Chris Zwakenberg, Washington, DC City Director
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