General CBF

A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent: Where it all Begins

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is Peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
 
– (O Holy Night, traditional Advent Hymn)

Christmas. The time of Santa Claus, of joy, of presents. It is also a time, especially this second week of Advent, when we often think about peace. We hear it in TV commercials; we sing about it songs; we may even pray for it more in our prayers. We often imagine this as an inner peace, the peace of knowing that a Savior is born who has come to save us. Or we may even have some ethereal notions of a future peace on earth. We sing, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” and think of this peace as a pleasant, but far off, ideal. But it is not something for which we are to sit idly by and wait. The words of the Bible do not grant us this luxury. The words of scripture make this idea of peace real and tangible. It is our hard and dangerous work.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and intends for us to be just that. When we search the scriptures—Isaiah’s vision of swords beaten into plowshares or Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek—the idea that we are helpless to bring about peace, or the prevalent idea that violence can somehow bring about peace cannot be found. These passages do not refer to a time after Jesus returns to set the world straight. True peace is a possibility here and now—and it is our job, here and now.

These are not visions of a time beyond history, but a time in history, a time on this earth, begun by us, the church. As we try to live in the Way of Jesus we find that it is a way of peace. Not just the inner peace of our soul, but peace as a way of life – a life of being peacemakers, a life of turning the other cheek, a life of giving up your coat when someone tries to take your shirt, a life of loving your neighbor, and a life of loving your enemy. When we as the church take Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount seriously, we understand that salvation doesn’t just mean a peace between us and God but also between you and me and us and them.

And I must admit, it does not make much sense!             

Turning the other cheek does not seem like a very smart idea. Trying to make peace when it in fact may bring ridicule, oppression, and death doesn’t seem to accomplish much. In fact, as much as Martin Luther King supported non-violence, many scholars say the civil rights movement, for example, wasn’t successful until it began to turn violent. For us, it’s a lot safer, ironically, to support wars, to defend ourselves, to see terrorists as terrorists and enemies as enemies. In this world wrecked with violence, living a life of peacemaking just seems like a bad idea. If the world will always continue as it is now, if the power and reason of the rulers of this age will last forever, then cheek-turners will only meet more violence and peacemakers will die by the sword.

But as followers of Christ, we are not called to do what is most successful, or what gets the most accomplished, or what seems like the smart idea. We are called by our Lord—who did not fight back with violence, but gave up his life for the sake of others—to do the same. Greater love has no one than this, that we do not kill one another, but that we lay down our lives for the sake of one another. As Christians, we are not only called to see everyone else, including our enemies, as God does, but even to love them as God does. Jesus says to love your enemies; that is what separates us from the world as his followers.

As the church we can only make the choice to be peacemakers, to live non-violently, in the hope and anticipation that God’s love will finally prevail through the way of Jesus! We can only choose to avoid saying harsh or hurtful words to others, we can only choose to treat those who treat us badly no different from those we deeply care about, we can only choose to go that extra mile when someone tries to take advantage of us, we can only choose not to retaliate in self-defense when someone tries to hurt us if we really believe that the Way of Jesus will one day triumph over all.

As we begin to celebrate Advent and Christmas, as we read stories about those waiting for God to come to earth, we celebrate the birth of our Prince of Peace who calls us to be peacemakers. During this season let us remember, and embody, the words of the song, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

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