Second week of Advent: Dec 7 - 13
Advent Reflection - Alyssa Mallgrave
It’s either terrible timing or divine providence, but as I sat down to write this, the world continues to react to a series of violent attacks in Europe and the Middle East, which ended hundreds of lives, and have left families fractured and cities in mourning. Around the world, people are calling for prayers, solidarity, and peace in our time.
When we envision peace – that mysterious ideal which so many of us long for – it usually looks like one of two things. Sometimes it’s serenity or tranquility. It’s lying on a beach disconnected from everything, totally carefree. It’s inactivity – no obligations. Or, in times of crisis, it looks like resolution: an absence of conflict in our homes, cities, and world. It’s people setting down arms and finally getting along.
But in times of deep sadness and destruction, these visions of peace feel less than satisfying. They are true and good, but in the face of evil our hearts crave something more. The good news of the gospel is that the peace that God promises to us in Jesus is not mere inactivity or absence, but flourishing, restoration, shalom. It’s alive and active.
The prophet Isaiah portrays this kind of peace beautifully, in his book of prophecy and promise. In the second chapter, Isaiah describes a mountain in the coming Kingdom, which all nations approach together to seek God’s teaching and example, so that they can “walk in his paths.” They also seek God’s righteous judgement and discernment, so that there is no need for war. Their weapons are made obsolete, and all nations turn their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:2-4, NRSV).
The eternal peace which we look forward to is far from tranquil. It involves movement and activity, pursuit and education. Following God’s teaching well is no small task – it requires great effort, even sacrifice. And we will all seek it together, in the kind of real solidarity that now seems like only a faint hope. This eternal peace is also more than a lack of war. Yes – the fighting has stopped, but that’s not enough. For this world to know peace, weapons of destruction need to be beaten into tools of cultivation, so that we can rebuild and restore. This is the robust kind of peace that will truly heal this broken world, and Christ’s incarnation and resurrection means that our hope is not in vain.
So what do we do now, in the meantime? We wait. After all, that’s what Advent is all about – waiting in eager and hopeful anticipation of the One who has shown us how to live and who promises life and peace eternal. But we can wait actively – in small moments and big movements, we can pursue this Kingdom-peace in our homes, cities, and world.
To read more Advent reflections, visit our Advent/Christmas page and download our Advent Prayerbook to follow along with us this season!