As I write this, the tumultuous/chaotic/crazy (what adjective does one use?!) year of 2020 is coming to an end. Yet, while I don’t consider myself a pessimist, as we all know, the end of a calendar year doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be automatically “better”. Yet, we hope. This time of the year is also the time of Advent for the Christian church, the time when we celebrate the once and coming arrival of Jesus as King. This remembering creates a longing which invades our space today, as the prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” takes on a particular focus and desire. Thomas Merton (b.1915. d.1968), an American Trappist monk was reported to have said the following: “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”
I share his quote here because it resonates with me on so many levels as I say “goodbye” to 2020 and look with symbolic yet very real hope, that the promise of a New Year brings. I think primarily of this idea of peace. While it has certainly not been a peaceful year, we still pray toward this end. The long-running joke of the beauty contestant who says she will work toward “world peace” is a reminder that this is the hope of us all! Be it racial divisions and riots, political strife and the pandemic, I think it is safe to say we all long for this peace. Yet, what is peace? It is not just the absence of conflict, but it carries the idea of wholeness, well-ness, completeness, harmony, and a “well-orderd-ness” to things. The world is broken. We all know it, feel it, can see it, regardless of whether or not one is “religious”. So, why then, are we not at peace with God, if that is the root of it all, as suggested by Merton? If we turn to the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul tells us that of Jesus, “God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on. earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20). I won’t take the space here to try to lay out an exhaustive treatment of exactly what happened on the cross as Jesus died for us, but there was a reconciliation between God and man. It was and is our rebellion agains God that separated us from Him, resulting in death, (both physical and spiritual death). But we are told in this passage above, how Jesus “made peace” through his blood shed on the cross. He took our sin and we get right standing (peace) before God. I’d say that’s a good “trade”, or, as theologians have often called it, this is the great exchange (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-19). Having been “justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5::1). So, to begin your new year with not just a “clean slate”, but with the righteousness of God now given to you, defining you, we have legitimate hope for a more peaceful 2021, if not outwardly, at least inwardly because we now, through faith in Jesus, are at peace with God. Knowing we now enjoy this peace, we can be at peace with ourselves. This gives us security, confidence, and courage, to pursue relationships of peace with other people. Currently I am preparing to preach on Isaiah 9:1-7 for the fourth Sunday of Advent which falls on December 20th of this year. Here’s the text. Read it. Let it sink in and give you the hope and peace we all long for:
“1. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan – 2. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.”
Friend, who longs for peace, let the above sink in! Of King Jesus and His peaceable kingdom, God Himself will bring this about! Are you at peace with Him during this Advent season? Do you know that no politician or political agenda can/will accomplish what only our LORD Almighty can bring about? I urge you to come to our good King today. Place your faith in Who He is and what He’s done for you to bring about peace between you and God. Don’t carry one more day the weigh and consequences of either your sins or your self-righteousness (which is itself a sin). May we all experience the Peace of Jesus this Advent season, and, keep praying for His Kingdom to come.