By Michelle Ballard
World Peace. This seemingly simple phrase has somehow found its way onto my Christmas list every year since middle school.
Each year, my mom encourages me to craft an extravagant and well-thought-out Christmas list. She anticipates that the list will mention a new rain jacket, a new pair of Chaco’s and perhaps a new camera, but she is routinely surprised by my request for… world peace.
I know what you’re thinking — you’re thinking that I was mature for my age, maybe a little naïve and perhaps very in tune with my philanthropic side. But, the reality is that the first time world peace made it on my Christmas I had just finished watching Miss Congeniality for the first time.
You know, the movie from 2000, where Sandra Bullock plays the lead role of a hopeless and frumpy FBI special agent turned beauty queen. In the film, Bullock transforms before our eyes from FBI agent Gracie Hart to participate as Gracie Lou Freebush in the Miss United States pageant and uncover the identity of “The Citizen” and save the world.
Ok… maybe saving the world is an extreme analysis of what really happens in the film, but you get the point. On the eve of Gracie’s great triumph, William Shatner’s character poses the question, “What is the one thing our society needs?”
First, Gracie responds with her frank answer: “harsher punishment for parole violators.” After waiting a few moments and receiving no applause from the crowd she states, “and, world peace”— the crowd goes wild.
Perhaps this scene presents us merely with an example of regrettable peer pressure, but I truly believe that wanting world peace was not a new pursuit for the agent. Her desire for peace was rooted deeply in who she was as a [civil] servant and compassionate friend.
And, the same is true for Christians. We are followers of the way — a way that is by its very nature a way of peace. However, often, the difference between Bullock’s character, Gracie Hart, and us, is that we believe that we must have a stage or a makeover in order to be an agent of peace in the world.
This is simply not true. Each day, we have countless opportunities to be representatives of peace, of forgiveness and of non-violence in our local communities. We have been given a gift — the gift of opportunity — an opportunity to extend peace to the perceived other in our midst. We have the opportunity to cry out to God and say, “I want to be at peace, to speak for peace and to live in peace with another.”
I don’t know about you, but this Advent season my heart and spirit long for world peace, now perhaps more than ever.
I am weary. Weary of violence, of war, of broken heartedness and of hopelessness. But, the good news is that God does not leave us in our weary state forever. The Advent season is proof of this — proof that something new is breaking in and disrupting the hopelessness that seems to suffocate us and inhibit our attempts at peacemaking. Proof that God is not only at work in the world, but that God is at work within us, gifting us with a heart for peace and insisting that we become agents of hope, joy and love this Advent Season.
We learn from the Prince of Peace, in the Sermon on the Mount, that blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. May it be so for us this Advent Season, for the Prince of Peace bids us come.
Michelle Ballard serves as the Young Baptist Ecosystem Intern for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She is currently a CBF Leadership Scholar attending Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, and is a lay leader at Edgewood Church in Atlanta, Ga.