As I mentioned in an earlier post, our church has created an Advent Blog each December for last few years. Articles and reflections are submitted by members and friends of our congregation, on a variety of topics tied to the Advent season. You are most welcome to join us in this annual pilgrimage toward Christmas.
My first submission was on HOPE. This one is on PEACE.
Everyone craves peace.
We pray it for our nations and households. We seek it for our world and for our minds. The whole of humanity could sing together of the desire for a “peaceful, easy feeling”
If it ever arrived, what would we do with it?
The Old Testament prophet Malachi described a beautiful covenant that God had established with Levi, a figure from centuries earlier:
5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty.”
Levi, the namesake for Israel’s priestly tribe (the Levites) enjoyed a covenant with Yahweh, described as one “of life and peace”. Levi lived reverently, and in exchange, his life was empowered to influence others toward a similar way of life and peace.
The priests were to experience Yahweh’s peace. Why?
So that they could bless the tribes around them.
Picked up in the New Testament, priestly imagery gets attached to the followers of Jesus, who are identified as a “royal priesthood”, apparently called to fill the role of representatives between heaven and humanity. (This concept is observed in the common Protestant doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers”.)
We see the establishing of this role in John 20:
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
To disciples locked away in fear that Jesus’ killers would soon hunt them down too, Jesus first spoke, “Peace.” Displaying himself as alive and victorious, he spoke the word again. Having shared his peace with them, he now sent them into their world in the same manner that God has sent him into ours. They received peace so that they might go into the world as representatives of the wholeness—the Shalom—that God is working to re-establish in His creation, one life at a time.
Poor Thomas misses this empowering experience. But a week later, Jesus grants him the wound-examination he craves, after offering one key word of comfort: “Peace.” We dare to see the same sending trajectory being established, even with the one famously called “doubting Thomas”.
How about Chennai, India?
Strong strands of tradition locate Thomas taking the Gospel of Jesus to the Indian sub-continent, as his response to Christ’s peace-sharing work in his life.
Apparently, tasting of God’s peace is a powerful enough experience to drive even an infamous doubter into offering himself as a Shalom-ambassador, at the exclusive disposal of the Infinite One.
Make no mistake: God wants to give you peace.
Just be sure you know why He wants to grant you such a gift. You can be sure it is a grander design than a few more Z’s tonight.