Peace be With You
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward those he favors.” (Lk.2:14) The second week of advent celebrates peace. The dove has long been the symbol for peace, as it represents the link between the Holy Spirit, baptism, salvation, and rescue from the flood. It is also linked to the Hebrew word, “Shalom”. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Through him we are made right with God and our neighbor.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
“Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
“Chill out” was a common refrain in the 60’s and 70’s. It was a response to the feeling that the leaders of the world were too “uptight”, causing war, political unrest and civil disobedience. Those who took imminent threats of nuclear holocaust or global warfare too seriously were told to “tune out” rather than “freak out” under the pressures of life. While the words and issues may have changed, there is a tendency to absorb all that is wrong with the world into our thinking. It’s not easy to avoid a sense of disquiet from the media that reports an endless cycle of “Breaking News” with a focus on disaster and conflict. What do we do when it becomes overwhelming? How do we escape?
The Hebrew word, “Shalom” refers to God’s salvation and blessing on us. It includes a fertile and productive earth, physical and mental wholeness, harmony with all people, communion with God. We might say, “May all be well with your world.” This peace is what the angels proclaimed at the birth of Jesus. He was the ultimate good news in a world not unlike our own. From the state of world affairs to dysfunction in a family, we long for peace. In many churches, a moment is taken to share the peace with our neighbors. It is more than a handshake, it is speaking the salvation and blessing of God on their lives. It is that hope for rest, cessation from struggle, release from fear, hope for the future. It is a divine gift that starts with being made right with God. Harmony with our creator gives us new eyes so we can perceive what is “right with the world” and give thanks for all our blessings.
Irving Berlin, a popular song writer in the 1950’s, was consumed by stress and insomnia. When he approached his doctor about a solution, he was told to “count your blessings”. It worked. This resulted in these lyrics:
“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep,
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small,
I think of when I had none at all,
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”
This is “shalom”—peace, well-being, seeing what is right with the world. The ultimate “breaking news” story is that God has come to bring us “peace on earth”.
Dear Lord, we focus on all the endless possibilities for disaster our world. It clouds our vision and prevents us from enjoying life. You have brought us peace—shalom—in Jesus. You want to restore us to harmony and provide us with an attitude of thanks for all our blessings. Grant us the peace so that we may say, “All is well.” Amen