One of the readings for the second Sunday of Advent is a song from Luke 1 that includes these verses: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
To guide our feet into the way of peace? I feel the hope and longing of these verses, but please notice that last phrase and its implication that we can’t find “the way of peace” on our own. We need guidance. We need a guide!
This Sunday we light the Candle of Peace, allowing ourselves – forcing ourselves – to face our world’s lack of trust, lack of civility, and lack of peace. It also encourages us to dream and dare to exercise more of that Advent hope.
All this peace talk is a bit embarrassing. I accept, for example, that I must find inner peace before I can hope for peace in the world. But I am equally convinced that our message of good news is impotent until we Christians find peace among ourselves. It is a shameful, embarrassing, powerful message to the world if we are only recognized for fighting over secondary and inconsequential things. Of course we can disagree. People, and therefore, the church have always had disagreements. Unity does not mean we lay aside our personal views or convictions. It means we realize there are more important goals than always “having it my way.” Neither the church nor the kingdom of God is Burger King. “Have it your way” is not our slogan. “The Lordship of Jesus” is what’s on our banner, and Advent demands that we learn to live it.
This Sunday, Malachi reminds us of a needed guide who will point in the direction of peace. “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” There’s something incredibly consistent about God’s desire to communicate, to dialog, to be in community with creation. May be all slow down enough, be still long enough, and listen closely enough – even to each other – to hear the voice of God.