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Advent Week 2 - Peace


12-10-23


Today is the second week of Advent - 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas.


Advent, observed in the Christian faith, marks the period leading up to Christmas. Lasting four weeks, it's a time of reflection, expectation, and readiness for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. During Advent, as believers we engage in spiritual preparation and joyful anticipation, symbolizing the hope and significance of Christ's arrival in the world.


Each of the four weeks leading up to Christmas is represented by a candle on an Advent wreath.


First Week: The first candle symbolizes hope or the "Prophet's Candle," signifying the anticipation of the Messiah's arrival. It represents the hope that Christ brings into the world.


Second Week: The second candle is often known as the "Bethlehem Candle" or the candle of preparation. It symbolizes faith and represents the preparations made by prophets and people for the coming of Jesus.


Third Week: The third candle is called the "Shepherd's Candle" or the candle of joy. It signifies the joy experienced by the shepherds upon hearing the news of Jesus' birth. It's also referred to as the candle of joy because the arrival of Jesus brings joy to the world.


Fourth Week: The fourth candle, often known as the "Angel's Candle" or the candle of love, represents the love brought by Christ into the world. It signifies the message of the angels proclaiming peace and goodwill.


Sometimes a fifth candle, often white, is placed in the center and lit on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. This is called the "Christ Candle," symbolizing the arrival of Jesus, the Light of the World.


Each week, an additional candle is lit, building up to the full illumination of the wreath by the fourth week, representing the culmination of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus.


If you're following my blogs then you know I'm also walking us through the entire book of Luke (3rd book of the New Testament). This special edition 4 week advent series is a supplement to that other writing.


ADVENT WEEK 2

Candle two

This purple candle represents Peace.

Strange since it’s also called the Bethlehem Candle


BETHLEHEM

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. – Micah 5:2


PRAY FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Today if you were to visit Palestine you’d see unrest, perhaps soldiers, armored vehicles, snipers, and division. Peace evades the Middle East. Peace evades Ukraine. Peace evades areas of the USA. Perhaps peace evades your own home or heart.


Bethlehem waited for a savior. The whole world waited. He came and will come again.


THERE IS ONE WITH DOMINION OVER PEACE

Jesus is called “the Prince of PEACE” (Isaiah 9:6-7). When the angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, they ended their message by saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth PEACE to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

An old man named Simeon saw baby Jesus in the temple when He came to be baptized. Simeon thanked God that he could now die in PEACE for he had now seen the Messiah (Luke 2:29-33).


War. It is the absence of PEACE. The Bible shares in various places about a spiritual war between goodness and evil (or “powers and principalities” [Ephesians 6:12]).


You can see why then having the Satan fighting against goodness, having dominion over the earth, and many people fighting against God, the earth remains a battleground in an ongoing fight. This fight will one day end.


What Does PEACE Mean?

In some Eastern religions, finding serenity or inner peace means believing that everything dies, all is nothing.

This to me sounds empty and not a reason for living just to die. What is it all for?

SHALOM

In Hebrew, the word for peace is shalom.

Throughout the Bible, shalom is used in several ways.

  • Genesis 29:6) - health

  • Numbers 25:12 - protection and blessing

  • Judges 21:13 - reconciling after fighting

  • Maybe shalom with God is to be in an inner state that only comes from trusting in him (Isaiah 26:3).

  • The Old Testament also talks about Israel having peace with God through a covenant, though that peace is conditional. He provides peace and protection as long as they do not “turn to folly” (Psalm 85:8).

  • When the nation strays from following God, He withdraws his shalom from them (Jeremiah 16:5).

  • By the time that Jesus was born, Israel had been ruled by other empires for centuries, so shalom with God had been absent for a while. And it seems it is absent now.


HOW WE LOST PEACE

  1. Humanity lost peace with God when sin entered the world. From the moment that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, all of humanity lost peace with God and became sinners (2 John 1:8).

  2. This put us in conflict with God because we desire things not of Him (Romans 8:7-8).

  3. No human being, since Adam and Eve, has been able to be fully righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:20), which means we are all in a state of rebellion against God.

  4. This lack of peace presented a dilemma that the Messiah came to solve and it’s our focus to have peace on earth which comes from goodwill toward all men (as the popular Christmas tune surmises).


How Does Jesus Bring Peace?

Israelites were expecting the Messiah to be a savior who would rescue them from the Romans. That would mean peace would only come by ending the reign of oppression and the string of failed rebellions. It was thought that the Messiah would return Israel to its former national glory. But was it ever really? From almost the beginning of the writings - it seeks Israel has been in a state of missing peace (piece?).


Jesus also talked about PEACE on several occasions.


During the Sermon on the Mount

He said peacemakers are blessed and will be called God’s sons (Matthew 5:9). He also warned the disciples that He actually did not come to bring peace to the world, but would divide people (Matthew 10:34-36).


At the Last Supper

He told his friends that He would leave them soon, Jesus comforted them by saying, “PEACE I leave with you; my PEACE I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Clearly, this was not a PEACE that seemed ordinary.


PERFECT PEACE

When Jesus died and then rose from the dead, never did He bring peace by overthrowing governments. Instead, He brought peace for Jews and Gentiles (Romans 10:12), by dying for them. He became a sacrificial lamb, dying for humanity’s sins once and for all (Hebrews 9:12). In doing so, He made peace between humanity and God (1 John 2:2).

Therefore, EVERYONE who believes in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection (Romans 10:9) achieves PEACE with God. Your sins are paid for, and they gain eternal life (John 3:16).

Peace be still.

Prophets knew that Bethlehem would be the place peace would come. Micah 5:1


It was also written about and the beginning of many Christmas holiday tunes and shows on TV Luke 1:26

I’ll put the song by Lauren Daigle but sung by Hope Darst in the comments.


Christmas is coming

Over 2000 years ago, Angels broke through heaven (“and a great light shone around them”) declaring there should be peace on this Earth and goodwill toward men.


Peace. Many don’t have it. Many seek it. Many wonder when it will be coming.


Soldiers are across the world today protecting our peace and freedoms – Christmas looks different for them. Think of them and the families that wish they were together this month.


A SOLDIER STORY

This is a story of Charles – who joined the army to fight in the war. Oldest of 6 children, known as Charley by his family.


Two years before joining the military, Charley’s mom died in a tragic fire. Her clothing started on fire, her husband tried to extinguish it, but she had already suffered severe burns.


Charley’s dad suffered such severe burns himself trying to save his wife, that he was unable to even make it to the funeral. He even had to grow a beard to hide his own burns.


Charley’s dad went into a depression and feared that he would need significant counseling. Can you imagine watching your most treasured love one burn alive? Horrific.


If that wasn’t bad enough, Charley’s dad received a letter not long after his son enlisted, that he had been shot through his left shoulder with the bullet exiting the right – Charley had avoided being paralyzed by only an inch.


On Christmas Day, there sat Charley’s dad – a 57-year-old widow with 6 kids. He struggled with significant dissonance in his own heart; losing a wife, now taking care of a severely wounded son, looking at the world so full of hate, injustice, division and war, and yet wanted and needed to find the glory in the season.


He wrote in a journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence.

Perhaps someday God will give me peace. ‘A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."

Later, he heard some church bells and carolers singing of “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men”. These words seemed to mock the situation of the world, the government, leadership (or the lack of it), local/national/global communities, and life in general.


Maybe it feels the same for you too…


The world continues to turn; we wake up, work, spend only a few spare moments with people we care about, go to sleep, and start over again.


Something just feels different this year.


Does it feel like it is just a repeat every day? Do you look at this season and think – it is all just bah-humbug? Do you look at our country, our government, our communities, our relationships – as something that is just disappointing?


Maybe you are torn between different families this holiday season, or it just does not feel as magical as it did when you were a kid.


Then - there are the children starving around the world, kids are being trafficked and abused, refugees trying to find safety and peace, disease consuming lives of many here and afar, war never ceases, threats of terrorism continue to grow…when does it get better?


You could bow your head in despair like Charley’s dad did. After he heard those carolers, he literally said,

“there is no peace on Earth. For hate is strong, and mocks this song of peace on Earth goodwill toward men.”

BUT THEN – the bells grew louder, the song got stronger, his heart grew softer, his soul shone brighter, and he lifted his head….something had stirred.

Then he said, “God is NOT dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”

Charley’s dad was famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


He wrote the poem “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” in 1863.


Charley was a union soldier of the Civil War who joined the war without his father’s blessing. He wrote his dad a letter from afar saying that he wanted to lay his life down for his country. In that letter, he wrote, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”


Friends: Jesus was born into a dark and broken world, made it His first duty to show us love, how to live, and how to get back from whence we came. He willingly laid down his life for us – not wondering if it would be of any good, but knowing it was the ONLY way good would destroy evil.


  • Maybe you feel like Jesus is in a galaxy far, far away.

  • Maybe you feel He doesn’t care, doesn’t hear you, doesn’t know you – but He does.


This season is about God our Father, thanking Him for the many blessings He bestows upon us, including the greatest gift ever given to mankind – His one and only Son, that whoever will just simply pause and quiet their hearts, believe in Him, and want to know Him – will never have to worry that their own eternity would not be full of peace and goodwill.


Come – let us adore Him. Come – let Him speak to you. Come – He is waiting.


Take the gift.

Don’t let your hardened heart not hear the choir singing…your eyes not see the light shining…or your inner soul and spirit not confidently know that the everlasting Holy One is calling you back to Him.


My Christmas wish is that you also find peace in your heart and homes this holiday season.

I wish the same for me.


And if you don’t have it right now – don’t lose hope or sight that the One that came that first Christmas morning, will be coming again – to take us back to a place where there are no more tears, no fears, no fighting, no hurting, no crying. Fix your eyes on Him.

Hear the bells.

This season is about knowing Him more, loving Him more, and becoming more like Him.


"Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

Please PLEASE listen to the second song below. Maybe you will hear it a different way now that you know the story. THEN read the commentary after that. There’s more to the story above. You will read a bit more history of what happened that fateful day in the Longfellow household.



Peace. We all seek it. Truth. We all want it. Love. We all need it. God is the only one who provides all of it.


The apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).

PEACE LIKE A DOVE

In my book Twelve Days: A Christmas Exploration - I describe doves and peace.


On the 2nd day of Christmas - the person got two pigeons. Well - turtle doves actually. But they are from the same bird family. Leviticus 5:11


In Egyptian, Roman and Chinese societies, doves symbolize innocence, long life, peace, devotion and love, and caring for one's family.


  • Noah sent out a dove to find dry land and brought back an olive branch - which is a symbol of peace.

  • When Jesus was born - two doves were sacrificed instead of a lamb (ironic right? Luke 2:22) - typically this was what poor people sacrificed because they could not afford to sacrifice a lamb.

  • When John the Baptist first saw Jesus - it was because a dove had landed on His shoulder.


Another relative to the turtle dove is the mourning dove. That bird represents life, hope, renewal and peace.


Doves have long been symbolized as messengers - of love and peace.


PRAYER

Lord - Thank you for your word and for peace like a dove. Peace is what I seek most. May I remember that you are the Prince of Peace and can provide more than I need - I just need to have faith and trust. Amen


Song of Solomon 2:14

"O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway, Let me see your form, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your form is lovely."


MUSIC FOR THE WEEK

This is a song called Peace Be Still. Sung by Hope Darst. "Hope" was also the word of the first candle last week.


Here is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. this is my absolute favorite version of this song…sung by Casting Crowns


Notes:

Here is what Fanny (Henry’s wife) recorded in her journal the day before she tragically died:

"We are all sighing for the good sea breeze instead of this stifling land one filled with dust. Poor Allegra is very droopy with heat, and Edie has to get her hair in a net to free her neck from the weight." "LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am" (Psalm 39:4). After trimming some of seven-year-old Edith's beautiful curls, Fanny decided to preserve the clippings in sealing wax. Melting a bar of sealing wax with a candle, a few drops fell unnoticed upon her dress. The longed-for sea breeze gusted through the window, igniting the light material of Fanny's dress-- immediately wrapping her in flames. In her attempt to protect Edith and Allegra, she ran to Henry's study in the next room, where Henry frantically attempted to extinguish the flames with a nearby, but undersized throw rug. "28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the LORD the Church" (Ephesians 5:28-29). Failing to stop the fire with the rug, he tried to smother the flames by throwing his arms around Frances-- severely burning his face, arms, and hands. Fanny Longfellow died the next morning. Too ill from his burns and grief, Henry did not attend her funeral. (Incidentally, the trademark full beard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow arose from his inability to shave after this tragedy.)

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