“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” Isaiah 40:1- 11
In this second week of Advent we are lighting the candle of peace. We long for peace. Peace within ourselves. Peace in all our relationships. Peace in our cities, our nation, and our world. And yet peace feels elusive almost unattainable. There is always some unrest somewhere even in our own homes. Homes that we long to be a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of life. Covid – 19 has shown us where the peace we tried to create is only an illusion in our lives and we are left to wrestle with the knowledge that the peace we long to create is still only a distant hope in our future.
I think the problem lies in the simple fact that we try to create peace when we can’t create true and lasting peace. The peace we long for…even desire with all our hearts can only come from God who created us. It can only come when we submit our wills to God and we live out the principles we are taught throughout scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. We will not have peace until we no longer have hearts that are at war with the world around us. We will find peace when we give up wanting what everyone else has and we can’t afford. We will find peace when we learn to be content as Paul says:
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty or hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Finding peace means to be able to be content and being content means that we have peace of mind. Not an easy thing to achieve but also possible. At this time of year, I love listening to Christmas Carols. They give me a sense of peace and goodwill when I hear the joy and glad tidings sung in my car and at home. One of my favorite carols…and I have many favorites…is: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” It is actually part of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and put to music. The poem is entitled Christmas Bells and poem is much longer than the song. Several stanzas were removed and more is the pity. Because you see, this poem, was written by Longfellow at the height of the American Civil War when this country was tearing itself apart from the insides. It was a time of terrible bloodshed and much strife between North and South. It divided families just as it divided our country. And yet this song sings of peace. When the author, in thinking of all the hatred that was consuming the world around him despairs of peace ever happening…writing that hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will toward men, it is in those words that he also realizes and writes the following: “God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The wrong shall fail the right prevail with peace on earth goodwill toward men.” Love is a far more powerful force than hate and hate eventually dies. Especially when it is faced with hearts that are at peace. If you would like to read the entire poem you can find it here:
Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Poems | poets.org
In this season of peace and goodwill, I pray for peace. Peace within ourselves. Peace in all our relationships. Peace in our cities, nation, and world. Peace that is more than a cease fire or a stop of all hostilities. Peace that comes from God who is the author of peace and who when we live within God’s perfect will, we will have peace that passes all our understanding.