As a Historic Peace Church, one would rightly expect the Church of the Brethren to highlight the coming of one hailed as the “Prince of Peace.” That the angels proclaim, “Peace on Earth” and not long after, violence would be used by those in power attempting to stifle this coming child. The political and social context then and now make a robust focus on peace a clear need.
We also assert that all theology is practical—what some would call ethics—and as such, that the coming child embodies the fullness of God’s shalom is of immediate relevance for how we live as Christians and the church in the world. In another context I have defined peace as:
Peace is the presence of wholeness in relationships that are characterized by justice, mutuality, and wellbeing. Peace is not a universal or homogenous experience but is experienced in the appreciation and celebration of diversity and between individuals, communities, nations, and with the environment (non-human world).
The coming of the Prince of Peace announces and calls for inner, interpersonal, and geopolitical peace, which necessarily includes Justice. In Christmas, we celebrate that this has been embodied in a Child in Bethlehem.
Within the Church of the Brethren there is much focus on the “life and teaching of Jesus.” The coming of the Christ Child, of Emmanuel—God with us, is of immense significance for understanding and participating in the grace, reconciliation, and justice of God. While this is not extracted from the larger witness of scripture and church life, it is a core area of focus or lens for how we discern and live our lives as a church body. Part of this is being together in mutual support, prayer, discernment, and study of scripture.
In hearing the Spirit speak through one another, we highlight the critical value and necessity of being together. In light of this emphasis, hearing directly from and being in fellowship with Christians from the Holy Land is of incalculable value. While statistics, talking points, and policies are necessary, the incarnational ethic of being together and hearing from one another is the core of peacebuilding.
While there are traditions and prominent themes within the Church of the Brethren, there is less set liturgy. These are often traditions developed within and between local congregations. Advent prepares us for the coming Christ Child, in expectation that this arrival turns over our assumptions, gives us a vocation of peacemaking, and us together in fellowship that moves us beyond national identities and our narrow visions of security and might.
Spirit of peace,
quiet our hearts,
heal our anxious thoughts,
free us from our fretful ways,
Breathe on us your holy calm
so that in the stillness of your presence
we may open ourselves to trust
and be transformed. AMEN.
This devotion is provided by Rev. Nathan Hosler, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy for the Church of the Brethren.
This year, we were pleased to ask members of our Board of Directors to share their liturgical traditions around the Advent season and reflect on the importance of community and working across faith traditions. The devotions reflect a variety of communions and personal perspectives that support CMEP’s work toward peace and justice in the Middle East. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.
– Your team at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)
Support Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) this Advent season. We rely on your generous donations to continue to pursue peace and justice in the Middle East. Thank you.