“Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.”John 14: 27
Today we light the candle of peace in our Advent wreaths. Last Sunday we lit the candle of hope. I think we find our peace by clinging to our hope, so be sure to light both candles today.
Advent is not so much about waiting to celebrate an event that we remember, a sort of memorial, as it is about preparing the way for Christ to come again. Christians believe in a Second Coming of Christ and this Second Coming is our hope and the hope of all Creation. However, I do not believe in the limited and narrow way this happening is commonly presented as a sort of dramatic end of the world.
What God is doing is unexpected, exciting, and incredible. God has been and is creating patiently from the beginning a work of amazing and awesome beauty, and God has all the time in the universe to accomplish this work. God even has hope of being able to create a work of beauty here on our earth, in spite of the disappointments down through the ages. We know this because God has stayed involved with us and never given up on us. There was never a time that God was not present to the earth.
The kingdom of God — the Beloved Community — is at hand, already present. The Beloved Community started by Christ Jesus with just a few dedicated members is meant to grow and spread so all creatures of the world may rest there, safe and secure, in harmony and peace. That’s the plan.
We celebrate the coming of Christ into our world on Christmas. It is the foundational belief of Christians that Christ came to earth and was incarnate as a human being named Jesus. We believe that Christ Jesus is God and shows us what God is like. The oneness and uniqueness of God is the clearest revelation we received through the Jewish experience with God, so whatever we know of Christ Jesus, we know of God. God the Creator, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are One. Christ reveals to us that this One God is a God of mercy, kindness, healing, reconciliation, restoration, forgiveness, love, acceptance, and peace.
Surprisingly it turns out that we Christians are the first wave of what we call the Second Coming of Christ. We are meant to be the seeds of a new hope for humanity and all of Creation. Christ is the first born of a new humanity, or what we might term a restored humanity. This Second Coming is all happening now. This is why we are not meant to just hunker down, wait, and pray for some distant future when God will send Jesus a Second time. We are to actively spread God’s Beloved Community across our earth — now.
We are to turn away from the ways of the world and be faithful to the good news — we can do things in God’s ways now. God has come to earth in Christ Jesus, is with us, staying with us, living in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ is embodied in us now. We have become the incarnation of God, the real presence of God, as the Body of Christ.
It was a fantastic surprise when Christ became incarnate as one human being, Jesus, over 2000 years ago. The incarnation was an unexpected event. Many still cannot accept it as true. The idea of God becoming a human was too incredible and remains incredible to many. So, it is no surprise that even Christians have difficulty believing that, through the Holy Spirit, we as the Body of Christ in Communion with one another, are actually the embodiment, the incarnation of Christ’s continued presence to our world. Nevertheless, that is exactly what we are. Now, imagine that Christians throughout the world catch the vision of what this means. Our expectations of Christian behavior would change completely.
Christians for the most part have failed to grasp this new reality in spite of singing songs about being the Body of Christ. Too often Christians have thought of their faith as this private one-on-one affair with God and have been so heavenly minded (concerned about not going to hell) so as to be of no earthly good. Remarkably, it is also true that Christians have behaved exactly like anyone else on this earth, turning to acts of violence, jealousy, hatred, meanness, and greed. It is no wonder if it is difficult to believe that Christians are meant to be Christ still present with us here on this earth. They don’t act like the Jesus we read about in our Gospels.
Christians can spiritualize the concept of the Body of Christ as something “mystical” and this is not helpful. It is preferable to realize that we are the incarnational, even organic, presence of Christ. You see, things are not well in our world. Wars, conflicts, hostilities, acts of torture, acts of terrorism persist. Violence as a response to violence has not brought us peace. At this point it will take a great awakening of Christians to make any difference. We are past the time when we could afford just a few saintly persons here and there, like St. Francis of Assisi, as ambassadors of peace.
Christ left us the pattern for peace, but it is a pattern for peace that the world cannot understand. The peace that Christ brings comes non-violently. It comes through reconciliation, understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, and a radical equality of persons. There can be no peace while there are those who seek power over others, who seek privilege and status above others. Those towers of Babel must come down and we must become the Beloved Community of God we are created to become.
My beloved ones, let’s learn to be channels of peace, approaching the world with love.