Peace - an Advent word
The concept of peace strongly characterises the Advent and Christmas season. But what do we mean by peace? A guide to Jesus Christ, the bringer of peace, for a peaceful start to the new year.
I dedicate this sermon for the 2nd Advent to a truly Christmassy concept! It is not called a gift; nor is it called a candle or fondue chinoise, but simply peace! It was a night when an angel announced the birth of the Saviour to the shepherds in the field. Suddenly the night was as bright as day and they were surrounded by the heavenly hosts who praised God and said:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to all people in whom God is well pleased" (Luke 2:14 NLB). What a message: God is still pleased with his people. He is not giving up on them yet! Peace from God, salvation, has come to earth to us humans!
The prophet Isaiah spoke about this bringer of peace on behalf of God more than 700 years before the event: "For the people who live in darkness see a bright light. And over the people in a land overshadowed by death shines a bright light. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. On his shoulders rests dominion. He is called: Wonderful Counsellor, Strong God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His dominion is great, and peace in his kingdom will be endless" (Isaiah 9:1, 5-6a NLB).
It was a dark time back then, when Isaiah was still a prophet. The two kingdoms of Judah and Israel were breaking apart. The people were taken into exile. At the time of Jesus' birth, it was just as dark in this world. Jesus was not born into a land of milk and honey, on the contrary. Complete chaos among the rulers, egoistic kings, brutal rulers with much blood on their hands. And is it not just as dark in this world today? Where is there still a country in this world that is not overshadowed by death, Corona deaths (worldwide there are well over 5 million registered Covid deaths); refugees who drown on the flight across the sea up to the many war deaths?
"For the people who live in darkness see a bright light..."We may know the bringer of peace, Jesus - the light of the world! Peace from God involves first of all reconciliation with God. Jesus Christ opened the door back to God for us human beings through his death on the cross. Through his grace and mercy our lives can be made whole! This is a very special gift from God that he still offers us humans today! Without this peace from God, man is without peace. In this regard, the prophet Isaiah does not mince his words: "But the wicked, says the LORD, have no peace" (Isaiah 48:22 LUT).
In the secular sphere, the word peace is used almost exclusively for the settling of a dispute. One hangs up the hatchet for a short or longer time. There are a bunch of compound words with peace! Peace agreement, peace efforts, peace movement, Nobel Peace Prize, breach of the peace, peace research, peace talk, peace conference, peace plan, peace judge, peacemaker, peace dove, peace troop, peace negotiations, all the way to the peace pipe that is smoked! Unfortunately, all these efforts are often not crowned with success.
eirène the Greek term for peace in the New Testament borrows heavily from the Hebrew term shalom in the Old Testament. shalom has a stronger material meaning, while peace in the New Testament is strongly spiritual and oriented towards what Jesus Christ has done and continues to do for us humans. The peace of God has a deeply existential meaning. It is a special gift of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers. It gives serenity, security and protection. Peace means that which sustains us in moments of darkness, when the path leads through a dark valley or even: When suddenly the shadow of death falls on us. The peace of God is like a protective cloak from another world. A supernatural support when the waves rise high. I can be calm because God is close to me.
In our services we pray again and again for our persecuted brothers and sisters. When we read reports about what they have to go through and suffer, it is almost unbearable. Terrible conditions in prisons. Forced labour to the point of no return... hunger, cold, torture. How do our brothers and sisters in faith manage to hold on to God under such circumstances, not to throw their faith overboard? I have only one explanation: because they experience the peace that God gives them as Paul writes in Philippians: "You will experience God's peace, which is greater than our human mind can ever comprehend. His peace will keep your hearts and minds in faith in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:7 NLB). God's peace is so great that it surpasses our human understanding.
I wonder what the good Lord thinks when he looks down on us humans at present. Omikron - again a new virus variant is spreading! What kind of measures will be prescribed? Are you also glad that you are not a Federal Councillor?! At the moment it is again very important that we pray a lot and talk to God (Abentüür Gebät on Tuesday). What do you think, dear God, about all the things that are not going well in this world? What do you have in mind for us people?
I don't know whether the prophet Jeremiah once asked like that. In any case, he once received a remarkable answer from God. "For I know the thoughts that I have toward you, saith the LORD; thoughts of peace, and not of grief; that I may give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11 LUT). The answer from God was a lift then and is still a ray of hope for our darkness today! God lets us look into his heart and reveals his thoughts. Are we not privileged to live with such promises? No matter how dark it still gets in this world, we have a brilliant hope! We have a future!
It happened on Monday 15 November. Back from a treatment in the cantonal hospital in Aarau, I said to Rosmarie: "You, I feel sick!" I had aching limbs, a raised temperature and was dog-tired! My first thought was immediately: Covid! Quick test at home: negative! After all, we are vaccinated. The test documents said that if the result was negative and the symptoms were still there, we should go to the family doctor and have a PCR test done. No sooner said than done. On Tuesday evening I got the result from the family doctor: Positive! I don't believe it! That meant 10 days of house arrest! We live in a nice flat, but if you are not allowed to leave it for 10 days, it loses a certain charm! Since 24 November at 23.59 I am a free man again! The sermon topic was already fixed at that time. I had the impression that God was testing me right away to see if it would work with his peace! Who does not experience such moments: Rosmarie remained healthy all the time, but then the ophthalmologist told her that her eyes needed cataract surgery.
Suddenly you lose a loved one; or you are lying in a hospital bed outside the operating theatre. You mess up an exam. You have a financial shortage. An unexpected dismissal. We are all challenged with turbulent times from time to time.
But the bringer of peace is here! God's peace fills his children and creates serenity and confidence in our hearts! Who then is to radiate serenity and confidence if not us?
Recently someone in the house group told us the following remarkable testimony. A company manager has noticed that a customer radiates contentment and calm whenever he is there. One day the company manager approaches him: "They are always so balanced and content when they meet us and radiate joy and vigour! Where does this positive attitude come from? How do you do it?" The client's answer was: "I thank God every morning for the new day; I thank Him that I was able to get up healthy and that He accompanies me through this day. " The boss of the company looks at him big and then says: "I'll try that out now and do it like you!"
Isn't that what we all want: to be impressive examples that make people want to imitate us! We are these examples because Jesus lives in us and we are instruments in the hand of our Master Jesus Christ!
Now that Francis of Assisi has drilled his prayer into us for a year, God has a peace toolbox in seetal chile that is something to behold! You let God's love come to life wherever and whenever spitefulness spreads. You generously forgive all those who offend you, without putting them down first! With all your strength you avoid getting involved in a quarrel, but you try to unite! When someone is struggling with doubts, you fight with them for a strong faith. You do not search frantically for who or what could comfort you, but rather ask yourself who might appreciate your comfort right now!
Have you sometimes felt cramped during this prayer? "I can't do it, I just can't do it, I'm overwhelmed!"Wonderful, that is good! We must not forget the first sentence of the prayer: Make me an instrument of your peace! A tool is never independent, or has a screwdriver at home already become active completely independently? The God of peace takes you in his hand and makes you his tool! When Jesus spoke to his disciples about his going back to the Father, he comforted them with the words: "I leave you a gift - my peace. And the peace I give is not like the peace the world gives. Therefore do not worry and do not be afraid" (John 14:27 NLB).
This gift of Jesus dwelling in us, if we are God's children, is the biggest and best Christmas gift we can imagine, even in view of a totally unknown year ahead.
Possible questions for the small groups
Read together about Jesus' sermon in Nazareth
- Try to describe the peace of God as well as possible?
- John 14:27 mentions the peace that the world gives? Describe it too. Also read Jeremiah 12:1.
- How have you experienced God's peace in difficult or dark situations? Tell each other.
- Jesus is the bringer of peace. Is Matthew 10:34 a contradiction? Look for an explanation.
- Have any of you experienced this year how Jesus has made you an instrument of his peace.
- How does the peace of God remain active in you and not grow mould?
- What would you miss if God's peace were unknown to you?