(A sermon snippet for Advent 2; you may find the whole thing here.)
If you walk around our church parking lot on a Sunday morning, you
will see a few cars that share a bumper sticker with mine. It’s green, and it
says “Peace on Earth: It’s Not Just for Christmas anymore.” I love seeing them
around town because I know the woman who designed them, and I’m happy to see
that idea spreading. Peace has always been the thing people pray for; I wonder
if we really know what it means?
There are several definitions of the word peace. It’s a
tranquil state of being, when you take it in personal terms. It’s a condition
of Not War, if you take it in social terms. In both Hebrew and Arabic, it’s a
word of greeting, Shalom or Salaam. And in the America of today, it’s a hot
button, whether as a word or as a symbol.
In Colorado, a couple hung a four foot Christmas Wreath that included a peace sign. The
neighborhood association’s board threatened them with fines. According to the
New York Times:
In its original letter
to the couple, Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco, the association said some
neighbors had found the peace symbol politically "divisive."
A board member later
told a newspaper that he thought the familiar circle with angled lines was
also, perhaps, a sign of the devil.
Trimarco said he put
up the wreath as a general symbol of peace on Earth, not as a commentary on the
Iraq war or other political statement.
It sounds like in some places, peace on earth is not even
for Christmas anymore. For some in our country it is a word to be eliminated
and a concept to be avoided. For some people, winning is everything, and peace
is not a winner’s game.
But peace, and the hope for peace, is a theme
that weaves through our scriptures.
Last week I asked myself and my congregation what our hopes were in this Advent season, and we all wrote our hopes on paper leaves, and the children laid them on the carpet to pave our road through Advent. After worship, I collected the
6 of us wrote about something to do with family.
5 of us wrote of a hope for good health, for ourselves or
4 of us wrote about finding hope in the children in our
lives and in this church.
9 wrote of different specific hopes, including tolerance and
plenty for those who have little and a hope that people will show kindness to
each other this holiday season.
And then there were 16 more, and each one of them in some way turned on the question of peace. Our vision of peace was broad. It included personal peace and military peace and world peace. A hope for peace inspires many of us.
What we imagine peace to be may not be what God has in mind;
God’s in-breaking turns us inside out and
upside down, makes the rough smooth and the crooked straight and the high low
and the low high. We are the paths, the mountains and the valleys. We must be
made smooth for God. God’s messenger is coming to change US, and in that change
lies our salvation.
God’s peace is not about human beings holding on to the way
things have been. God’s peace is not about the satisfaction of winning a fight.
God’s peace comes to us when we surrender to what God wants us to be. God’s
peace comes to us when we stop arguing and believe.