Advent for the Churchless, Week 2: Peace

I didn’t write about Peace last week.

I intended to. I really did. We were in the midst of moving, so things were busy, yes.

But that isn’t the reason.

The reason was that I was having a hard time placing Peace in the world around me. My little world is just fine, but the bigger world? The one that you are a part of and the names in the headlines are a part of? There seems to be little peace in that world.

In a world in which systemic racism continues to have a stronghold on our systems, its normalcy blinding us into believing it isn’t even there – that’s not peace.

The United States systemically dehumanizing people, bodies who are loved by God, in unspeakable ways – that’s not peace.

Child homelessness skyrocketing – that’s not peace.

Tens of thousands of children coming north, looking for a better life – and not finding it – that’s not peace.

Because these issues, these headlines, these philosophical and political ideas we discuss? They’re not just issues. They’re people. People loved by God. Each of us – you, me, the man who was fed hummus through his rectum, those dying in the streets from hypothermia, starvation, or a gunshot wound – is imago dei – made in the image of God. Each person bears the image of God just as much as anyone else; when we dehumanize a person, we are denying that which God created.

As much as I would have loved for Jesus to come in and triumphantly brought peace to every corner of the world, that isn’t what happened. Jesus was born into a brutal world, and he was brutally executed three decades later. He told his disciples that he was leaving his peace with them. If we are to acknowledge the Peace that Jesus was born for, we must acknowledge that every person is as deserving of that Peace as you or I.

I have a need to have an answer, to conclude this with a nice checklist of how we can follow Jesus’ model and bring peace into our corners of the world. But it isn’t that easy. And I think that part of Advent is sitting in the storm, sitting in the chaos, sitting in our grief and our pain and our unmet expectations. We don’t gloss over the pain with our hot chocolate and sugar cookies; we read the names of those whose lives have been lost. We listen to the stories of those in pain. We acknowledge our own pain. And somehow, even in the midst of that, we hold a glimpse of hope of a peace we cannot yet see.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was no stranger to grief. Having a son wounded in the Civil War and a wife who died in a fire, he penned these words:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along the unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.”


Till, ringing singing, on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men!

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