Advent 2: Peace

The traditional theme of the second week of advent is peace.

The angels welcomed the birth of Jesus with a message of peace and goodwill (Luke 2:14). A true reading of this verse tells you that it is not the simple expression of goodwill to all mankind, but rather a blessing on those who men (and women) of goodwill.

In his 2003 book ‘What Every Person Should Know About War’, Chris Hedges suggests that during the last 3400 years of human history, no more than 268 days had been days of global peace.

In the past twelve months, many hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of conflict. In the West, the war in Ukraine has reminded us just how fragile peace is. The continuing horrific events in Israel and Gaza leave us feeling helpless and desperate. For much of the rest of the world, violence has been a fact of life for generations. The world is sadly short of people of goodwill. Now, as on the other 1.24 million other days in the last 3400 years, our world is not at peace.

Here’s the thing. The Greek word which we translate here at ‘peace’ is εἰρήνη (pronounced ei–ray–nay)which is very similar in meaning to the Hebrew word which we know as Shalom (בְּשָׁל֑וֹם). We translate the word as ‘peace’, but is has a much richer meaning than simply the ‘absence of war’. It means a deep, inward sense of completeness and wholeness. It is the ‘peace’ which passes all understanding ‘(Philippians 4:7). It is the ‘peace’ which Jesus gives and leaves with us (John 14:27). When you greet or bid farewell to a friend, or as you enter or leave a home, you use the word ‘shalom’. It expresses a deep sense of blessing – a heartfelt, enriching, supernatural peace. Shalom, ‘real’ peace, permeates Scripture.

Then I was young, I used to carry a sticker on my guitar which read ‘Real Peace is Jesus’. And that is the ‘peace’ which I am wishing you in this second week of Advent.

Shalom.

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