Stating the obvious: we do not live in a peaceful world. War and rumors of war. School shootings. Crime in all its variety. Job stress. Illness. Divorce. Even in my everyday mundane suburban life, peace seems elusive.
So today’s title made me wonder: do I expect peace?
Maybe my faith is too small. Maybe my focus is off. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and I’m a tightly-wound stress ball.
Maybe I’m operating with the wrong definition. The peace promised in Scripture is shalom, wholeness. It has less to do with lack of conflict or strife and more to do with God’s presence. Emmanuel, God with us.
Filled as it is with gatherings of family and friends, candlelight, holiday food, gift-giving and receiving, Christmastime may be the busiest – and least peaceful – time of year. Celebrating Advent helps us to refocus on the Prince of Peace, to be intentional about Christ in Christmas. During Advent (Latin for “coming”) we celebrate God coming to dwell among us in Jesus. We open our hearts to how God wants to come into our lives now. And we look forward in hopeful anticipation of everlasting life with God.
The Advent wreath candle lighting tradition is one meaningful way to celebrate God’s coming. The wreath (a circle) signifies eternity – God is, was and always will be. Three purple candles represent royalty and repentance; one pink candle (for week three) represents joy. The white center candle represents the divine nature of the baby Jesus. Evergreens represent everlasting life in Jesus and His everlasting love for us. The candlelight itself symbolizes Jesus, the Light of the World. Each week we light one more candle, lighting the center candle on Christmas to signify that the light of Jesus Christ has come into the world.
My prayer for this season? To expect peace as I set aside time to worship the Prince of Peace. As The Message puts it in Philippians 4:6-7, “Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness [peace, shalom], everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” I want Christ to displace worry, for me and for you, and so I offer these Advent readings. May Peace be with you!
Advent Week 1 – Expecting Peace
Read and light the first candle (middle purple candle): The first candle represents the expectation of the One who will bring Peace.
Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Read Scripture: Ezekiel 37:26-27 and Isaiah 9:6-7
Read: The prophets spoke God’s words of promised peace to distressed people. Walking in darkness, living in deep darkness, the people had lost their joy. Hold on, declares the Lord, I’m coming. I will shine my light in your darkness. I will establish my peaceful kingdom in your midst. I will send the Prince of Peace to rule over you with justice and righteousness. I will do this because I am your God and you are my people. I am zealous for you. Expect my peace. It will come.
Pray: Dear God, we look forward to your arrival and we eagerly expect your peace. In the name of Jesus we wait and pray, Amen.
Monday Psalm 40:1-3 How do you actively wait for the Lord?
Tuesday Isaiah 9:2 How have you seen God’s light during a dark time in your life?
Wednesday Isaiah 9:6 What does it mean in your everyday life that Jesus is the Prince of Peace?
Thursday Ezekiel 37:26-27 How can you remain aware of God with you?
Friday Micah 7:7 How has God responded to your hopeful watching?
Saturday Luke 12:40 How do you prepare for the Son of Man’s return?