It is the fourth and final week of Advent, and we are about to jump into the Christmas season. This week’s liturgical reading comes from Isaiah, and it brings a striking picture of Peace to the foreground of the close of Advent:
Isaiah 11:1-9 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of theLord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Every week at my church we greet each other saying “peace be with you”. After years of using this greeting, it has become perfunctory for me…but as I reflect on the theme of Peace after my time in Kenya this month, it has taken on a richer meaning. After spending recent time with staff and clients in some of our centers, I have come to see peace as a kind of mutual vulnerability.That is the peace that God provides through the coming of Christ in this season- God became flesh, not to take away all of our human pain and need, but to experience it alongside us and ultimately rescue us. Company, particularly in hard times, brings the deepest Peace.
The peace that Christ brings in his coming is really well described by Henri Nouwen in his book Compassion:
“Simply being with someone is difficult because it asks of us that we share in the other’s vulnerability, enter with him or her into the experience of weakness and powerlessness, be part of uncertainty, and give up control and self-determination. And still, whenever this happens, new hope and new strength is born…[others] show their solidarity with us by entering into the dark, uncharted spaces of our lives. For this reason, they are the ones who bring new hope and help us discover new directions. These reflections offer only a glimpse of what it means when we say that God is a God-With-Us, a God who came to share our lives in solidarity…”
This week, pause to take in the fact that God-With-Us means that, through Christ’s coming, we have Peace. That may not mean that everything is perfect, or that all of your relationships are ideal, or even that we will feel contentment all the time…but it does give us Hope. God is a God of profound Peace, and the coming of Christ makes that abundantly clear.