Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
You may have noticed that there’s generally a familiar ring to the beginning of my sermons. I usually start with something like, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:2) It’s not an original idea. If you take a close look at Paul’s letters, he begins them with a similar greeting. Letting His hearers know God’s “peace” is with them, provided comfort to the young, persecuted, and troubled early church. The same comfort God provides to us today.
When we think of “peace,” it’s hard not to think of “conflict” in our world today … ranging from wars resulting in death to simple arguments over what color new carpet should be or who’s team is best. These conflicts cause division in God’s creation … something He never intended. But the peace God desires is much more than an “absence of conflict.” So, I truly pray that God’s “true peace” is with each of us. And not only here in the days of Advent, as we celebrate the Prince of Peace’s birth, but throughout the year.
Like many modern words, “peace” is another one that originally meant much more that it has come to mean. The word “peace” comes from the Hebrew word “Shalom (שָׁלוֹם).” “Shalom” has a sense of “completeness, intactness, and unity” associated with it. It’s much more than a “lack of conflict.” Only if something is truly “complete, intact, and unified” with all that is around it, can “true peace” be achieved. God mourns that we don’t have true peace with Him and each other. However, in His infinite love, He has given us a way to find true peace.
The source of all conflict is sin. Satan has sown seeds of sin in the world for one purpose … to create conflict between us and God and each other. If Satan can separate God’s children from God, he is satisfied. Satan uses sin to carry out his wicked mission. But God has worked through His people to defeat Satan’s evil intentions in His creation.
Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare, of course, to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. And, more importantly, we prepare to receive Him when He returns. But, through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Jesus defeated sin’s power to create eternal conflict. His gift of forgiveness is what we need to have God’s true peace. We believe in God’s promise! As we confess our sins to God, He forgives them … all of them … completely and totally. He removes the source of conflict between us and Him. He also calls on us to forgive each other (Matthew 18:21-35). When we confess our sins to each other … and forgive each other, as God has forgiven us … true peace begins to take hold. By our witness, this peace grows and smothers the seeds of conflict Satan tries to plant.
This Advent, let us be lights of God’s true peace in the world. Let us destroy Satan’s seeds of conflict by spreading God’s true peace in our words and deeds to all we meet in this season AND in our “Advent” life He calls us to live.
May God’s Peace be with you,