“Advent recognises the absence of peace, yet the exquisite certainty of its coming.” Kate Bowler
I sometimes think that peace is one of those words we’ve got wrong.
It is deeper and wider than the images of still waters or pure white doves, it is not meekness – it is shalom – wholeness in mind body and spirit and being reconciled to God through Jesus.
Advent reminds us that the Messiah was called “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah; when the angels visited the shepherds they proclaimed peace over God’s people: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:14)
And yet the peace the angels bring, the peace Jesus brings doesn’t look how we might imagine it to.
For the shepherds it looked first like fear at the sights of the angelic hosts; and Jesus disrupted the lives everyone he met. When Mary and Joseph take the infant Jesus to the Temple, they meet the elderly Anna and Simeon who have been waiting for the Messiah for their whole lives, but Simeon’s words aren’t what we might call comforting.
“Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your soul as well.”
Simeon is warning Mary of the sorrow and anguish that will come with being Jesus’ mother – and the disruption He will bring to the whole world.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace came sometimes to disrupt the equilibrium whilst promising the hope of ultimate peace.
Advent, as Kate Bowler notes in the quote above, recognises that peace doesn’t reign – but it also reminds us that it is promised.
John’s gospel records Jesus’ words:
“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; do not be afraid.”
Jesus didn’t say that we would have no trouble (in fact he said quite the opposite!) but he promises His peace in the midst of the world’s lack of peace.
He sent the Holy Spirit to bring peace to our hearts when the world rages around us.
He gives peace of heart and mind whilst we wait for peace to reign – and this is part of the comfort we find in the heart of Advent.