“[During] the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3.2-6
During the season of Advent, Christians across the world wait with eager expectation for the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. While we celebrate Jesus’ arrival and the ways in which he modeled how we are to live, it is no doubt troubling to many how far away we are from the peace Jesus preached. From the rise of white supremacy in the United States, to the continued conflicts in the Middle East, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction of Peace. For those of us committed to a just, lasting, and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine, and throughout the Middle East; we might wonder if our efforts are in vain.
While many often view peace as merely the absence of conflict, Presbyterian pastor and writer Frederick Buechner reminds us “in Hebrew peace, shalom, means fullness, means having [sic] everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself.” Through the words of John the Baptist and Isaiah in Luke’s Gospel reading we see the ways in which Jesus – through his life, death, and resurrection – came to ensure we have all we need to be “wholly and happily” ourselves. Jesus’ ministry is one through which every “valley shall be filled…the crooked shall be made straight…and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Even when current events and political disputes make it seem unimaginable, during Advent we must hold fast to God’s promise that one day all rough ways will be made smooth. Each day, our friends in Israel/Palestine and throughout the Middle East are committing themselves to the work of peace, endeavoring to create a future in which all people can be “wholly and happily” themselves. It is through these daily acts of resistance and hope we can see glimmers of the full peace God promised through Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus.
In his letter to the Philippians Paul reminds the church at Philippi, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). As we prepare for the birth of the Prince of Peace let us recommit ourselves to the work of peace–peace for those in the Middle East and peace for those across the world, remembering even if we do not see it come to fruition in our lifetime, God will see it through to completion.
Though peace seems so far away we know you are with us each day, helping us to move closer to your ultimate vision of peace for all of creation. We pray for our brothers and sisters in Israel/Palestine. During times of such despair, when peace seems elusive, rejuvenate the mind and bodies of those striving for peace. We pray for those of us in the United States working for peace. Let us be reminded of the words of Paul, confident in the promise that you remain with us as we continue the work you have started. Be with the leaders of the United States, Israel, and Palestine, grant them wisdom and discernment. Guide them to act in ways that will bring about true peace and wholeness for all your people.