Excerpted from How Will We Welcome the Prince of Peace? An Advent Guide for Lectionary Year A from the NC Council of Churches.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
As with most published works, this reflection is being written well in advance of the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This requires focusing mind and heart on the season that many of us love the most – Christmas. No other holiday in the Christian faith shines as brightly with brilliant lights, sparkling decorations, and our favorite holiday carols as we celebrate Christ’s birth. It is proclaimed the season of peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
Yet we don’t have to look far to see our world is not at peace. Father David McBriar, O.F.M., Ecumenical Officer, Diocese of Raleigh, writes about the wars’ raging in the Middle East, the United States and Britain under heightened alert for a terrorist attack, our home front torn by racial and economic discrimination, and whether or not health care and a living wage is even possible. This reflection by Father David was written in August 2006.
Trials and sorrows are not new or unexpected. As promised in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Where do we as believers find Christmas in a world that seems flooded with darkness? How do we embrace the spirit of Advent, and claim the peace that transcends all understanding that was given to us with the birth of our Savior?
We can choose to deny hate. We can choose to not be afraid. We can choose to not meet evil with evil, whether in our thoughts, our words or our actions. A few verses are referenced above but there is a multitude of scripture available to strengthen our hearts and focus our minds on living in the light of God’s love and responding in peace to the darkness that can surround us.
The United States just experienced one of the most divisive seasons in our history. The outcomes of November don’t eliminate the intense outrage and disagreements expressed over the long months leading up to November 8. Christmas for some brings into sharp contrast the gilded homes and gifts on one end of the spectrum and the loneliness and grief experienced by many, and amplified during the holiday season. War still rages.
However, the Advent season is a perfect opportunity to remember the promise of peace and the love of Christ. It is a time to replace retaliation with love, anger with action, condemnation with gratitude, and despair with hope.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10