There were sheepherders camping in the neighbourhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
It was pitch dark outside and the rain was pouring down in sheets as we drove home from the mall after our Groupon-inspired session with the Sears photographer for the Christmas photos of the tinies. I steered our grey minivan down our town’s streets, bumper to bumper with red taillights that glowed against the water droplets on the windshield, blinding me with their speed. Whump, whump, whump went the wiper blades at a fast pace. The chatter of my children filled the car – because whoever wrote Silent Night didn’t have a van-load of tinies – and I tried to tune them out in order to pay attention to the treacherous road conditions. I could barely see out of the windows. Whump, whump, whump. The final notes of the carol are barely audible through the downpour. The water drummed on the roof of the vehicle. A new song begins and I hydroplane just a bit, gently tapping my brakes and steering into the slide before righting us again.
“Wait, wait, guys, quiet down for a sec – what song is this?”
Peace on earth, good will to men,
the bells are ringing, like a choir they’re singing,
in my heart I hear them,
peace on earth, good will to men…
What is there to do when you hear those words in these days? I made a noise somewhere between a laugh and a sob, myself. This is how it feels sometimes, right now in particular. We can feel or hear the score of peace but the rain is pouring and the cars are flying past and we are gripping the steering wheel just trying to get home.
I believe that peace-making is more in step with Jesus than peace-keeping. I believe in the voices crying in the wilderness, prophesying with their lives about the Kingdom of God. I believe we will see swords beaten into ploughshares but it won’t happen by magic – poof! – but instead it will be because we realized that it’s us, and we are it, and get to the good work of following Jesus and embodying the peace we have found.
I believe that peace begins with forgiveness and conversation and reconciliation, oh, I believe in miracles, I’m so ridiculous. I believe that small acts of peace are still acts of peace.
I believe in creating peace, in disrupting for peace, in the truth that peace isn’t always polite and it certainly isn’t status quo and it isn’t always cozy with twinkle lights and it will make people uncomfortable because they’re so used to benefitting from the lack of it.
I believe peace is hard fought in the corners of our own hearts long before it’s demonstrated and enacted. I believe in a peaceful imagination that dares towards joy and hope and challenges the way it is and the way it’s always been and the way it will likely always be done. I believe that the Holy Spirit is more than enough within us. I believe that Jesus wasn’t stupid or naive or “just didn’t get what it means to be alive these days.”
I believe that Jesus transforms us, even our desires and our thoughts, into who we were meant to be all along. I believe that evil and sin and violence and brutality of all sorts are all cancers in us, killing us all. And that only Love cures such things, only love can pull out the tentacles of these cancers.
I believe Advent reminds me that peace was announced then and peace was promised and that peace is our birthright and our endgame and our wholeness at last. I believe in singing a song of peace, declaring that God is not dead nor does God sleep, in the midst of a thunderstorms.
Because peace is what God announced at the birth of God-self among us: peace! Peace on earth!
And peace is what we are headed towards, what we believe in and what we practice. Peace is what Jesus left with us and so look, here in my hands, I am holding the steering wheel of one tiny vehicle and I am steering us all home and all the way there, watch me, I’m singing in the dark and in the storm.
Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss! Truth sprouts green from the ground, Right Living pours down from the skies! Oh, yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and Blessing. Right Living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage.
This is the second part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations.
The Full Advent Series
All Scripture quotations are from the Message paraphrase. Image source.