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Thankfully, 2017 is about to bite the dust.
This has been a difficult year. As the planet reeled from one natural disaster after another, we witnessed moral corruption and abuses of power at every level. Worse, we often saw God’s own people turning away. We watched the Church grow impotent and lazy—more interested in political power than in making disciples for Jesus Christ or in ministering to the broken world Jesus died to save.
And so much violence.
Wherever Jesus is, there is peace.
From mass executions of clubbers and concert-goers to children in schools and worshippers on Sunday morning, we’ve experienced a lot of violence this year. People are anxious and worried and convinced that we can never again feel safe.
Maybe you feel like that. Even on a personal level, this may have been a tough year for you. Perhaps you’ve experienced illness, death of loved ones, job loss, financial and family crises—problems that literally overwhelm you. And you feel alone in your pain and sense of isolation.
Then here comes Advent.
We will light candles, quote Scripture, sing carols, and do the familiar Advent stuff the Church has been doing for two millennia, maybe a little suspicious of the futility of it all. Lighting the Peace candle, especially, can feel like a cruel hoax when it seems clear that peace does not exist in the world we know.
And yet those angels keep singing just as they did to the shepherds on the hillside. First a single angel shimmers into view, announcing, “A Savior is born.” Then suddenly a bazillion of them flash across the night sky, exclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all people.”
In heaven, glory—on earth, peace. Why? Because wherever Jesus is, there is peace. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Those shepherds were terrified, but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid. Peace has come to earth” (Luke 2:10).
As a “sign” the angels offered Jesus’s humanity. The shepherds wouldn’t find a little prince dressed in cute baby clothes sleeping snugly in the royal nursery. They wouldn’t even find a saintly-looking cherub with a halo around his head. They would find an ordinary baby wrapped in cheap cloth lying in a feed trough surrounded by the stench and racket of livestock.
The angel called this “good news,” and no wonder. Jesus came to live with us so that he might save us. On one level that is spiritual. Jesus saves us from the penalty of our sins and assures us of an eternal home in heaven with him.
But Jesus also saves us here and now from fear and loneliness and despair. We don’t have to be afraid, because peace has come to earth. Whether we feel it or believe it, it is true nonetheless. “In the world you will have problems,” Jesus declares, “but don’t give up. I have overcome the world, and I will give you peace” (John 16:33).
One way to ensure peace on earth is to live as peacemakers ourselves.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
—St. Francis of Assisi
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
—Jesus of Nazareth
Norma Farthing is a former teacher and administrator who's married to John, a former professor and pastor. They enjoy retirement in Northwest Arkansas, especially being Nana and Poppy to Landon and Layton, reading good books, watching old movies, and cheering for the Duke Blue Devils.