Second Week of Advent – Peace
Matthew 3:1-17 & Isaiah 11:1-10
Like many words, the English word “peace” has multiple meanings. 1) Sometimes it is used to mean a lack of conflict with others – at peace with others. Countries sign peace treaties. 2) Sometimes it is used to mean an inner state of tranquility or a state of being calm or quiet.
Did Jesus promise the first kind of peace for followers of the Way? In Matthew 10: 34-37 Jesus said “do not think I came to bring peace (#1) on earth”. Following Jesus would create conflict within the family and with others. Conflict over what Jesus says continues to our day. Some Christians invoke the name of Jesus to justify all sorts of conflicts.
Did Jesus promise the second kind of peace for those who faithfully follow him? Galatians 5:22 says peace (#2) is one of the fruits of the Spirit. God is the source of our peace. John 14:27 records Jesus saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Paul repeated this theme in Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice. … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I have experienced the second kind of peace several times in my lifetime. Three similar occurrences stand out as I thought about this topic. Three times I have been the lay leader of a church without a pastor. Twice when the pastor left suddenly. Those were opportunities to be anxious and troubled. Yet John 16:33 says, “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.” I asked the Lord for guidance and in each case I did not feel troubled or fearful. I felt no anxiety. I knew what to say and what to do. I wrote articles in the monthly newsletter and always knew what needed to be said. In each of the three cases, the congregation felt at peace and continued to accomplish new things. (Is peace contagious?) I have thought of that as a kind of ”passing the peace”. In this advent season, whatever might otherwise trouble you, I pray you will experience the peace that passes our understanding.
– Greg Reed