Scripture: Our God is merciful and tender. He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us and to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death, to guide our steps into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
Meditation: As Christmas approaches, songs of peace often emanate from our lips. But do we know what peace looks like?
When we initially wrote these devotionals, there was much talk of war in Iraq, even as our nation continued to struggle with the problems in Afghanistan, Palestinian areas, and Israel. Today, 17 years later, we still are dealing with the remnants of those wars. And, in other corners of the world, peoples and countries spend their precious resources to take the lives and livelihoods of their neighbors. Despite the current state of the world, the Christmas journey calls us toward peace. But what does peace look like in a world so torn apart? Isaiah (65:18-24 CEV) offers this alternative for our world:
Celebrate and be glad forever!
I am creating a Jerusalem full of happy people;
I will celebrate with Jerusalem and all of its people;
There will be no more crying or sorrow in that city.
No child will die in infancy;
Everyone will live to a ripe old age.
Anyone a hundred years old will be considered young, and to die younger than that will be considered a curse.
My people will live in the houses they build;
They will enjoy grapes from their own vineyards.
No one will take away their homes or vineyards.
My chosen people will live to be as old as trees,
and they will enjoy what they have earned.
Their work won’t be wasted,
and their children won’t die of dreadful diseases.
I will bless their children and their grand children.
I will answer their prayers before they finish praying.
It is a long way from the place described by Isaiah to where our world finds itself today, and yet it is not an impossible journey from here. To paraphrase a former National Security Administration official, we can bomb Afghanistan and chase al Qaeda around the world but we will fail if we do not see that the best deterrent against terrorism is hope. In a world where hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry each night, and where hate still rules many nations, it is not a hard leap to understand why some misguided young men and women are willing to sacrifice their lives for any cause which even remotely promises a better life for their families. They are literally hopeless. In their minds they have nothing to lose.
The promise of Isaiah can only be achieved when we really understand that the scriptures call us to do justice. The gift of Christmas is the freedom in God’s love to seek this goal knowing that He is there to help us over the hard spots. We are called to give hope to the hopeless even in today’s very difficult world. Clarence Jordan offers some guiding words for those who commit to taking on the daunting task of working for peace in a troubled world:
It seems to me that He (Jesus) said something like this: “Fellows, this is it. You think you’ve already been through a lot. You’re just getting started. As you walked up these steps and came into My kingdom, I made it clear to you that you were there by making an all-out commitment. I charge you now to be faithful, cost what it may. But don’t let them scare you or bully you or make you back down. Rejoice that you’ve been counted worthy to be on our side. You’re in a great company of prophets whose glorious past stretches back to the beginning of time and whose future has no end. So, go to it. I’m with you.”
Prayer: Lord, continually remind us of the song of peace sung by the angels that Christmas so long ago, and give us the strength to be Christ’s peacemakers in the world today.
For additional information about our Advent devotions and their authors, click here.