This Advent season of 2020 the focus is on rekindling the gift of God. We certainly need our spiritual grounding and the gifts of faith to sustain us during these difficult times.
There is a ritual for lighting the Advent wreath each Sunday. Then there is a reading for each day of the week based on the theme of the week’s candle.
May we rekindle the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love this Advent season!
Rekindle the Gift of Peace
Lighting the Second Advent Candle – PEACE
In our homes we gather around wreaths to pray our lost hopes, broken peace, limited joys, and love so hard to find and share in this season of coronavirus. We affirm that our candles mean we claim the power to call this season Advent when God’s light comes into the world and nothing can overcome it.
Light one candle.
We light the candle of hope.
Light a second candle.
We now light the candle of peace in spite of. . .
name those things, places, and concerns that call out for peace
God’s peace illuminates the possibility of reconciliation and healing and lights the wick of peace in our lives so that we may shine on the world and brighten the path toward peace. Amen.
Monday Dec. 7 PEACE
‘. . .they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks’
December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor marking the entrance of the US into World War 2.
Since then, wars have continued to erupt like a bad infection. Now, instead of blatant attacks and bold overthrows, it seems like we have a continuous state of low grade war in many places in the world. And since the world has become ever more a global community, these wars involve many different countries and interests. And with the growing impacts of global climate change, this situation will only get worse.
It seems that the days of war, with a beginning and a middle and an end, are over.
One of the lessons that peacemakers have been trying to teach for centuries is that bombs don’t end war. They don’t stop war. They don’t eradicate war as a policy option. War does not create peace. Justice and human rights may create peace. But we are investing so much in armaments and the military, we are sowing and growing war, not peace.
How can we rekindle the dream of peace? How can we honor Jesus as the Prince of Peace? How can we turn turn our swords into plowshares? The birth of Jesus was the birth of this possibility. How can we make it a reality?
May we seek to be peacemakers. In our individual lives. In our communities. And, yes, even between countries and peoples. Jesus shows us that another world is possible. Amen.
Tuesday Dec. 8 PEACE
‘Glory to God in high heaven! And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.’
This beautiful image from the Christmas story seems idyllic and pastoral. But actually shepherds were the lowest rung of the economic and social ladder. Almost outcasts. Underpaid. Overworked. Expendable. Not a group associated with God’s favor. And yet that is the first group of people who receive the good news of the birth of Jesus.
This story tells us that the birth of Jesus was intended to be good news to people who are at the bottom; who are marginalized and forgotten. So how do we share good news with those who need it most today? Is that part of our Christmas planning and celebrating? I hope so!
The Christmas story is about peace for the poor. Hard to square with the enormous over- shopping for consumer extravagances this season.
Can we cultivate a greater sensitivity to the people who are made poor who live in our midst? Can we listen to their stories? Can we honor their dignity? Can we receive good news from those made poor?
We are told that Jesus was poor. He lived and worked among those made poor. May our view of reality include all strata of society and may we see our common humanity. Amen.
Wednesday Dec. 9 PEACE
‘The peace of Christ be with you.’
This is said many times in church. The peace of Christ. We want to remember that Jesus was hunted down, arrested, put through a sham trial, and given the death penalty in a public and humiliating way. Yes, the story of Jesus has violence and torture and suffering in it. So, where is the peace?
We want to think about peace as doing what you need to do, what you know is right and good and true, no matter the consequences. There is peace of soul and spirit even in circumstances of violence when you know you are doing what is right, what is consistent with the teachings of Jesus, what is loving. Even if it leads to trouble; what the late John Lewis would call good trouble.
Maybe if your life is devoid of good trouble, you are not really living peacefully!
May we live peacefully even when there are risks and costs. Sometimes we are being given peace in our hearts even though our lives seem turbulent and unsteady. Amen.
Thursday Dec. 10 PEACE
‘ . . they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid. . .’
So, if no one was killed that you know of today, was it a peaceful day? Is there peace in our city if there are no murders? That is not how our faith teaches us to think about peace.
The Christian concept of peace comes from the Jewish concept of shalom. Shalom means peace but it implies not just the absence of violence and threat. Shalom implies individual and communal well-being. Shalom indicates the conditions that lead to thriving and flourishing life.
The Biblical concept of peace doesn’t just mean there is no war and no violence including in the home. It means that there is access to human rights, health care, self determination, equality, a clean, safe environment, education, the arts, safe food, and housing.
Law and order may have to do with limiting violence but it is not really about peace because peace has to do with fomenting what is good not just stopping what is bad.
Most crime is committed by people who are not thriving and flourishing. They are usually desperate in some way and in need of compassion and support from society.
When everyone is fed and clothed and housed and treated with dignity and respect, then there will be much more peace in the world. And with that peace there will be less violence.
How can you be a part of creating more peace in the world by helping to create conditions more conducive to the flourishing of life for those who are being underserved and ignored? Does that bring you some peace?
On this first day of Hanukkah, we join with our Jewish sisters and brothers in seeking shalom for all of Creation. May the light of peace shine brightly. Amen.
Friday Dec. 11 PEACE
‘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, and do not let them be afraid.’
How does the world give peace? Having wealth is perceived as assured peace – physical peace and inner peace – knowing that you can meet your material needs and have access to resources that can keep you safe and healthy. If you have financial stability and security, that is perceived as peace.
With Jesus, we are told that he may have owned one cloak and no house. So, where is the peace in that? Not knowing where your next meal is coming from? Not having a permanent home?
The peace Jesus is talking about is quite different. Maybe there is peace in living your life for others, for the common good. Maybe there is peace in living harmoniously with the Earth. Maybe there is peace in forgiveness instead of holding grudges and seeking retribution. Maybe there is peace in material simplicity. Maybe there is peace in acceptance and understanding instead of exceptionalism and superiority. And all of that peace has nothing to do with a bank account or an address or a title.
Think about peace in your life. Do you feel peaceful? Where do you need peace in your life? Do you need to think about the concept of peace in a different way?
In Jesus, we are given peace. Peace which passes all understanding. May we open ourselves to the peace Jesus seeks to give to us. Amen.
Saturday Dec. 12 PEACE
“God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Today, millions of North Americans will celebrate the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She is the Mary that is the patron saint of Mexico and she is beloved the world over. Part of her appeal is that her story challenges white privilege, colonialism, patriarchy, and racism. She gets her way with the European-dominated male hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Guadalupe pretty much does what Jesus does – challenging the hierarchy and patriarchy of his day and lifting up the lowly so that they are treated with dignity and respect.
Like the Virgin of Guadalupe, may we have the courage and persistence to challenge the systems of oppression that diminish life and dignity especially the life and dignity of people of color. Amen.