My early adolescent years were in the 70s. A time of the escalation and ultimate end of the Vietnam war, Watergate, the Iran hostages, an oil crisis caused by oil embargoes disco, flower power, and a popular answer to this question, “What do you want for Christmas?” The common answer was, “World Peace!” and then an upholding of the two fingers in a “V” to signify peace. It was such a common answer to that question that is ultimately became a joke-something trivialized so much so that it now means very little. It only resonates when we might hear it from the lips of a little child, with a cherubic face, and then we might get a glimpse of what “World Peace” might look like. Its harbinger is hope and hope is so easily seen in such innocent faces.
This week is the Second Week of Advent and it began with lighting the second candle on the Advent Wreath yesterday in worship-the Candle of Peace, preceded last week by the lighting of the Candle of Hope. For many of us it is hard to see a future for peace in our world. Domestically, we are still fighting among ourselves trying to rid ourselves of racism, sexism, economic policies that seemingly perpetuate disparity, gender issues, climate change, and the list goes on. The taproots that produces the fruit for these domestic afflictions is deep and seems to have resisted every enlightened hard-won movement toward their eradication.
The feeling about international happenings is not much different. The systematic suppression of human rights is becoming an increasing global phenomenon. Heightened tensions between countries with nuclear weapons make us fearful of who has the itchiest trigger finger. The Middle East still seems like a smoldering forest fire flaring up progressively more frequent. And then there are the problems of famines, lack of access to safe drinking water, massive movements of refugees from areas of political instability or natural disaster. Can someone now sing a few bars of the Coca Cola commercial, also from the 70s, of “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?”
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” In essence, we cannot realize a solution to any of the world’s big problems unless we can solve them on a smaller scale among the people we live with day to day and also within ourselves. I think this is at the heart of what we wrestle with in
Advent. We want to have a wonderful celebration of the upcoming Christmas holiday. We might be gathered with friends and family and share happy times together that are peaceful and joyful. Most of us will sacrifice something of ourselves in order that these events will be happy, peaceful, and joyful. This gives us a clue into what it is we must be. We must be constantly seeking within ourselves and then do what needs to be done to provide for opportunities for happiness, peace, and joy to emerge. This fans the flames of hope from which we might even dare to think of what can be done on a larger scale to address the great challenges among and before us. Perhaps, the hope in Advent looking for world peace is not so much of a pipe dream after all.
The seeds of peace have been sowed on the same soil in which the mature trees of domestic and foreign adversaries and adversities grow. They just need a little bit more care and cultivation. The First Coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, did make a difference in our world, despite the cry of cynics to the contrary. For whenever and wherever compassion, justice, and mercy breaks out there are fragments of the heavenly kingdom already to be seen and a real foreshadowing of the kingdom to come. With that in mind, World Peace cannot be far behind.
Hopefully yours in Christ who has come and will come again,