Luke 3:1 – 6 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Scripture: Isaiah 40: 1-3 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Isaiah and John the Baptist both prophesy that a way is to be prepared for God. The preparation is the removal of obstacles. That can be seen as being a kind of peace. I think that we see peace that way most of the time – as the removal of obstacles which makes life easier.
But peace is more complicated than that. And also it is more simple. Peace is so simple that for us it is complicated.
As we know, Advent means to wait. When we wait, especially if it is to be for a long time, it is helpful to have something to think about … to meditate on. Last week we meditated on Hope. This week we are meditating on Peace. We have a whole week to ponder the complicated simplicity of Peace.
In a nutshell, peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the absence of violence. Conflict is not the problem. How we deal with conflict is the problem.
We live in a violent world. Lately I think it is fair to say that we live in a violent country. I wish I could say with confidence that everyone who hears about violent actions are heartbroken and deeply grieved. But I know this is not the case. Some people believe that violence is the only way to show whatever group of people they hate that they need to sit down, shut up, go away, and be very afraid.
Violence comes in many forms – physical, verbal, emotional, and spiritual. It can be manipulative or head on aggression. People perpetrate violence (and by that I mean that they start it) because they are afraid and they don’t have the skills to express their fear or to figure out why they have it.
As Christians we are called to follow Jesus, our Prince of Peace. What does that mean in our day to day lives? How do we wait while meditating on peace? Jesus himself was a little difficult to understand when it came to peace. At one point he told people that he wasn’t here to bring peace. At another time he said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.“
Jesus also says that we are to take up our cross and follow him. That is not exactly a recipe for no conflict. What it speaks to is our intentional way of living – facing conflict with a heart that is stayed on the peace of God.
We may not have the ability to give the world a worldly kind of peace. But as Christians we do have something unique to offer. We have access to Spirit peace. This is a way of life – it is a choice and a difficult one at that.
When we live in Spirit Peace we know that it is going to look odd to those who don’t. It might even increase the aggravation of those who don’t have it. Jesus experienced this all the time. The more he lived in the peace of his soul the more people wanted to throw him off a cliff or to crucify him. So the trick is to not get discouraged when your soul’s peace is aggravating others and they try to get you riled up.
I believe that the best response to violence is beauty and love. What if we perpetrated acts of beauty in the face of anger, intolerance, hatred, and all those other toxic ways of being? What if we refused to participate in violence even during conflict? What if we blessed instead of sending a curse?
This is not the world’s peace. It is God’s peace. This is how we prepare the way for the Lord. This is how we prepare our hearts for the incarnation of God in the baby Jesus. We live in peace and offer peace to a world which may not know it evens wants it. We bring beauty in us and with us. Even in the hard times we do our best to perpetrate beauty.
Will we fail sometimes. Oh yes. Will we find ourselves in the momentum of anger, rage, and possibly violence? Possibly. Can we then stop and shower our own souls with beauty? I believe we must. In the words of Isaiah, “Comfort, Comfort oh my people.” Speak tenderly to yourselves and each other. Prepare yourselves with beauty. Not as the world sees beauty, but in the beauty of unconditional love. Prepare yourselves with this beauty because God is coming near.