May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and Our Redeemer. Amen.
Today we light the fourth candle on the Advent Wreath. This candle is sometimes referred to as the “Angel’s Candle.” It symbolizes peace. It reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”
Our first reading from the book of Micah speaks of the Messiah, the ruler of Judah to come, as being a person of peace. Today I will explore our sense of peace in the world in the modern day. I found some commentary on the Micah passage we have for today that was useful to my understanding of the background of Micah—this from the commentary of Father Ted Blakely. He writes: “The book of Micah belongs to a collection of writings called the Book of the Twelve, comprising the twelve Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi… Micah was a prophet of Judah in the 8th century BCE and would have witnessed the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BCE. “In Micah chapters one through three, Micah explains that God was going to punish Israel and Judah for its practices of idolatry and social injustice by laying waste to Samaria to the north and Jerusalem to the south and scattering the people. Then, in Micah 4 and 5 the tenor of Micah changes, and instead of judgment and exile, Micah says that God will provide a future Messiah who will restore Zion. The Lord will forgive the people; and in our verses for today, Micah says: “But you O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule Israel.” And Micah says in Micah 5 verse 5: “…and he shall be the one of peace.”
Jesus, sometimes called the Prince of Peace, also could confront. He confronted the Pharisees and called them a “brood of vipers.” At another place in the gospels, Jesus says, “I have not come to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” We know that Jesus on earth could see into the hearts of men and women and discern the truth. To many of the Pharisees, he was able to point out their hypocrisy and instead make God’s truth clear. Yet, Jesus believed in peace. Peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says on the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
In today’s gospel in Luke, we see a woman of peace. We see the Virgin Mary who takes a journey to visit her relative Elizabeth. When Elizabeth greets Mary she shared that the child she was carrying leaped for joy. And when Mary says the Magnificat, we hear the peace of God implicitly in her words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my soul rejoices in God my Savior.” Part of the peace of God manifest in Mary is her own humility when she says, “…for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” Implicit in one’s understanding of peace is a profound sense of humility. Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, said in last week’s gospel reading, “I am not even fit to untie his sandal.”
Are we experiencing a sense of peace? Do we have an accompanying sense of humility that surrounds that peace? If not, don’t worry. Christmas is less than a week away. And this Mary and Joseph will go on a long and difficult journey from Galilee to Bethlehem with Mary pregnant riding on a donkey. They arrive in Bethlehem, and there is no place to stay. She must give birth in the most humble of venues—in a lowly stable for there was no room for them in the Inn.
There are many synonyms and nuances to the word “peace” in today’s society. Peace can hopefully mean the opposite of stress, anxiety, fear, and worry. We have a lot of those words finding root in modern society. Covid 19, variants, Omicron, masks, worry about traveling, the stress of not catching Covid from someone else, the anxiety about visiting our loved ones. World news seems to feed on fear, worry, and anxiety. But listen to Jesus’ words in the gospel of John 14:27, “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.” Let us remember that not only does God give us peace, but God gives us wonderful news to announce to the world. That unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given.
In last week’s gospel reading from John, John the Baptist tells the Pharisees that he is not a prophet, instead he is a “voice crying out in the wilderness, make straight the path of the Lord.” We should ask ourselves today, “Are we a voice of the Lord?” Are we heralds of the gospel letting people know that Jesus loves us and has a wonderful life of abundance and joy? Do we share that Jesus is our Savior and can be your Savior if you invite Him into your heart? There was truly a humility in John the Baptist. John realizes that Jesus is the Savior of the world, not himself. He is a messenger, and we are too. Our message is that Jesus is the Son of God, and came to the earth to save us sinners. It is a proclamation of good, joyous news. In the humility of John the Baptist, John answered the Pharisees question of who are you John by saying, “I baptize you with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” Like John, we need to recognize it is not us who is the Savior. It is Jesus who is our Savior and Lord, and we too are not fit to untie his sandal. But, we are in fact Jesus’ hands and feet on this earth. We are the body of Christ, and we are to point to the way of repentance and introduce people to Christ, the author, Savior, and redeemer of the world. We are called to be peacemakers and to help people reconcile to God. May we all be ambassadors of Christ’s peace to this anxious world.
Let us pray. Dear Lord, guide us in the way you should have us go. We are here. Send us to do your will in all we undertake. Thank you for the joyous gift of Your Son to this earth who has redeemed us. Equip us to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, with people we meet. And bless us and our families with your heavenly peace during this Christmas season. Amen.
The Rev. Jeff Roper, Deacon
December 19, 2021
St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS