Formation Fridays: Peace
Such a simple, beautiful prayer.
As we’ve continued on our journey through Advent together, I have been meditating on the idea of peace. When we read the story in Luke of Jesus’ birth, a group of shepherds watching their flocks receive a heavenly visitor and are terrified. Fear is a common reaction in Scripture when a person encounters an angel. But the angel assures the cowering shepherds that this visit is good: The Savior is born! “Suddenly,” the text says, “a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, ‘Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.’” (Luke 2:8-14, CEB)
“Peace on earth” is the message of the heavenly forces announcing the birth of Jesus. That really struck me as I reflected on that. I can’t help but consider the thoughts running through the minds of these shepherds, living under Roman oppression.
The Romans ruled much of the known Western world through the pax Romana, the “peace of Rome.” Truth be told, this wasn’t really peace at all. It was peace in the way that the Cold War was “peaceful.” There was little-to-no open conflict, but it was anything but what many would consider “peaceful.”
In the midst of this tension, Jesus is born, and angels are proclaiming, “Peace on Earth.” In some sense, this proclamation sets the tone for Jesus’ life and ministry.
Jesus was a fan of the Prophets. We can see from reading the Gospels that he was very familiar with them. He even announces his ministry by reading from the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4:18-19). Isaiah has a lot to say about the vision for God’s kingdom. In Isaiah 6, we read about an unthinkable reconciliation: wolves and lambs lying together, being led by children, bears and cattle grazing together (6:6-9). This lovely vision ends with this: “They shall not hurt or destroy in my holy mountain; for all the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
I believe that Jesus had this in mind as he talked about the Kingdom of God. He understood that peace, true peace, does not come through fear or dominance. True peace comes through reconciliation.
Being a peacekeeper means maintaining the status-quo. Being a peacemaker means doing the work of reconciliation. My prayer for all of us is that we can begin to do the hard work of recognizing our wolves and our lambs, and to being the work of bringing them to a place of rest and peace.
Grace and peace,
Associate Pastor, Community Groups and Spiritual Formation