The second theme of advent is that of Peace. Here, churches will often focus on the message spoken to the shepherds by the assembly of Angels who appear to them in the field. That message was one of hope, but also one of peace on earth!
Speaking of “peace on earth,” however, is a difficult task in this day and age. Since the coming of Christ, indeed since his death, resurrection, and ascension, we have witnessed world wars, genocides and “ethnic cleansings,” we have seen disease and famine, and terrorism. Not to mention our own personal “hells” that each of us have faced as life has come crashing down on us. Men sin against one another, violate one another, assault one another, and destroy one another (physically, emotionally, and psychologically). And for many this raises intense questions about God and his supposed peace on earth.
Christmas is a time to reflect on the promise of peace. It comes by one man, Jesus Christ, and comes to those who are found in Him. Yet even this peace is internal and not always external. This peace is anticipatory and not always a present reality. This peace comes too with a combination of apocalyptic reality.
While we make much of Christmas peace as a sentimental feeling of good cheer, traditionally Advent has been much more apocalyptic in nature. By the Middle Ages an emphasis on the return of Christ had been established as an important aspect of Advent, something Luther himself carried over. It’s been largely lost today, but apocalypse is a part of what Advent is about, and that means that peace does not come without judgment. We see this in the message of the prophets who anticipate the coming of the Messiah but often in the context of judgment. It is worth meditating on how the peace of Christ comes to us in this season, and all that it costs. Peace comes at the price of Christ’s wrath-absorbing sacrifice. Peace and judgment come together.
Here are some artistic elements to help you in your meditations on peace this week; art that you can both listen to and read.
- “Peace” by Jennifer Knapp
- “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Mercy me
- “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” by Page CXVI