This weekend is the first of Advent. Can you believe it, still November and it’s advent already? Christmas within touching distance. It’s amazing how time flies isn’t it? Hardly feels that long ago since the start of the year, and advent is here already.
Personally, I love advent, largely because thus far, in its truest meaning, it’s been spared from the corruption of consumerism. As Christians we can still take this time and really focus on the heart of the Christmas message, the coming of Christ. Consumerism has it’s own ‘advent’ I grant you, with advent calendars and present buying, but the actual heart of advent has escaped the consumer trap.
Advent, for me, is a time of both preparation and remembrance.
Preparation, as we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we start to ponder anew the meaning of His coming and our own response to that.
Remembrance, because we begin to remember his coming and it’s implications for us and the world around us, and we begin to look back over the past year and see what God has been doing in our own lives.
Often it’s good at those times it’s good to stop and reflect. So during this advent, I’m hoping to write a few blog posts on some of the themes and issues we encounter at this time of year.
First, I want to look at the the theme of peace – or rather, shalom.
At the end of the post is a video of some Christmas images, with an audio of a superb version of the old Christmas song ‘Silent Night’ by Eva Cassidy.
It’s a familiar Christmas song, we’ll recognise the lyrics well. But before you go watch and listen to it, let’s just take a moment.
Because what do we really mean when we talk about the ‘heavenly peace’ in which Jesus sleeps?
The word ‘peace’ is often used in our culture simply to speak of an absence of war.
But the hebrew word for peace, ‘Shalom’, which we find used many times in scripture, the kind of peace God gives, means so much more than this.
It implies a wholeness, fullness, health & rest. The root word ‘shalom’ means to be complete, perfect and full.
The shalom of God is what God wants for His creation. The whole world, every single person, in harmony with Him and with each other.
Complete, whole & perfect.
This is what God brings us through Jesus, and calls us to participate in bringing to the world we live in, which can often be so full of pain, suffering & darkness.
This is the type of peace God wants to give us. This is the ‘peace on earth’ that we find in the coming of Christ.
That is the kind of peace that God calls us to bring back to the world. That is the kind of peace that God wants us to live in, to embody.
The shalom of God is, ultimately, how we are called to live.
When God created the universe, before the fall of man, which ruptured the whole of creation, this is how we lived.
All at one, all in harmony, complete, whole, full. In perfect relationship with God and one another.
Not caring who is right or wrong. Not getting into petty disputes. Not speaking one kind of faith and living another.
It’s not easy finding the shalom of God, or maintaining it. Some might say it’s an idealistic, naive and unachievable goal, that it simply doesn’t work in reality.
But I would argue that the reason we find it so hard to live in the shalom of God is precisely because we made the choice as the human race to live a different way, to break this shalom of God, to order our lives around things other than God.
That is why it is so hard to reorder ourselves, to retune ourselves back into this rhythm, why it feels so unnatural or such a struggle. We have lived a different way, out of tune, out of harmony with God, for so long that anything else is difficult.
This is the challenge that I want to bring to us today. To stop, take a step back, and reflect on what that shalom of God could be like, what it could look like.
It means living our lives according to a different rhythm. It means the heartbeat of our lives, the rhythm of our lives, right at its core, needs to be defined by something different.
Living in the shalom of God means making space for sabbath, for a day of rest, to reconnect with God and His creation, to recharge ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means retuning ourselves to God’s rhythm, examining ourselves.
It means coming to the cross in complete honesty and nakedness, laying our lives before God and asking Him to restore us, to bring us resurrection. It means, in fact, participating in the rhythm of death and resurrection, entering into that process with Jesus.
As we do this, as we allow God to humble us, to heal us, and restore us, as we embrace the forgiveness and new life found through the resurrection, we begin to find the shalom of God.
Ultimately, the shalom of God is the rhythm we were originally designed to live, and ultimately, what the hope we have promises that we will live in again.
But God wants us to discover this now. To stop, humble ourselves and retune our rhythm around His shalom. To enter into the process of discovering the shalom of God here and now.
Isn’t that something worth hoping for?
Especially in the busyness of life, the violence of our world and the midst of the Christmas rush, isn’t this something worth investing ourselves and our lives in?
What would it look like if our culture, and each of us, tried to embrace the shalom of God in our daily lives?
To live our lives in tune with our creator, to rediscover the heart of the Christmas story, to be reminded of the truth of the hope we have. To be reconnected with our creator.
To discover the true shalom of God. A new kind of peace.
So as you watch the video, and listen to the familiar song, just stop and take some time, and ponder on what the ‘heavenly peace’ that is talked about, the shalom of God, really means – and what it might mean for you.
Peace not as the world gives, but that only God can give.
Time for you to join the conversation!
What do you mean when you think of ‘peace on earth’?
Have you discovered the shalom of God in your life?
What would it look like to retune the rhythm of your life to the shalom of God?
How can you discover more of the shalom of God this coming advent?
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