Advent Midweek 2 Peace Came to Earth, LSB #’s 347, 343
Text – Ephesians 2:17
And He came & preached peace to you who were far off & peace to those who were near.
PEACE TO ALL NEAR & FAR
The weeks before Christmas can be busy. The days of December bring us closer to more people than perhaps any time of the year. The stores are full. The lines are long. The office Christmas celebration puts you in the same room with people you might see only once a year.
Your family gets together the week before Christmas, & this year, your cousin with the smallest home is hosting. It’s going to be tight! Advent & Christmas bring us shoulder to shoulder with strangers, neighbors, family & friends. A long checkout line, a crowded party, & sharing a couch with one person too many; that is no one’s picture of peace.
Peace is the opposite image. It is open space, quiet & calm. If only we could find it. That is the picture tonight as we continue to see how the star of peace comes to us. This evening, we look at the two middle points of the star. They stretch out & say, “Peace is about getting away!” If we can get far enough away, we will find peace.
It’s a natural idea, & we can spend a great deal of time pursuing it. But once again, God knows the limits of our pursuit, spares us from a disappointing chase, & gives us far more than we would have found for ourselves. Let’s start with imagining that peace can be found in a place far away from where we are right now.
What is your picture of that perfect place? Is it a cabin in the woods set on a quiet lake? You have the lake to yourself. There are no other cabins to spoil the view; no motors waking you up. There’s a perfect reflection of the trees on the far shore. The only sounds are the waves gently breaking on the shore & the cardinals calling one another.
There are no phone calls, messages, or emails to be returned; no 24-hour cable news to
remind you of the anger in the world. There is nothing but peace. Make some coffee or tea, sit on the porch, & soak it all in. It sounds wonderful. If you can escape to that place & stay there, it sounds perfect. But what if you know that it’s never going to happen? You can’t leave your work & live in the woods. You can’t leave the people who depend on you.
You need peace that fits life here & now. That’s the other dimension of peace we often seek as we live here & now. We can seek that dimension of peace by rearranging our past. It can use some change & distance because the past doesn’t stay in the past where it should be – silent & out of sight. Instead, the past intrudes into our present & it threatens even our future.
The past has those people, those events, those harsh words, those tears that never fully went away. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could erase them & move their dusty memory as far away as that cabin in the north woods? What if we could deny the darkest parts of our past & retell our story with the best parts out in front?
Let the worst parts be hidden under a mumbled sentence that no one can really hear. Pick up the past & move it out of sight. Then we could be at peace. We hope that erasing our past will lessen the pressure on our crowded & stressful present. Take either direction of the star & go as far as you can – deny our dark past or escape our overcrowded present.
And what does God often do? He stops us from going in either direction & offers peace to us where we are. Jesus is our peace here & now, not in our separation from one another but in Himself. St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:13–15,
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one & has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” Amid the hostility & tension that we experience, Christ brings us peace. Remember the disciples sailing in the boat? A storm came on them, & they rowed furiously while Jesus slept peacefully. Finally, they woke Him & asked, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38 ESV) Jesus rose, rebuked the wind & waves, & there was calm.
Do you remember what Jesus said to them? “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40 ESV) Is your peace only found on a perfectly calm lake? Do you block out Christ’s peace in the middle of a storm? Who knows what storms may be right around the corner? There is One who does know & His peace is waiting for you, there in the storm.
He who creates calm within us, even when the wind & waves roar; He is our peace. Jesus is our peace by reconciling us to one another. We try to bring peace to the conflicts of our past by retelling our side of the story. We want to distance ourselves from those people & events. But Christ brings peace by bringing together all people through His birth, life & death.
From His birth in the stable to the gathering around His cross, His coming brings together those who would otherwise remain distant. Paul says, “…He came & preached peace to you who were far off & peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers & aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints & members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:17–19 ESV)
Peace doesn’t come when we retell our side of the story. Peace comes through the brokenness of Jesus on the cross. Peace comes when our sins are completely erased, as Jesus gathers us from far & near, regardless of who we are. Peace was created by Jesus’ death & resurrection. In that event, we don’t merely come out better. We are forgiven & at peace.
Dream if you wish of that perfect cabin by the always-calm lake. I’m not sure that it exists anywhere but in our dreams. That’s okay. We don’t need to escape to the lake, & we don’t need to escape by a retelling of our past. Peace is offered to us this Advent when Christ is with us through His words of peace & power. In Him, there is forgiveness for all of our past, & power over all the storms of today or tomorrow. The peace of God is with us no matter how many people are leaning upon us with their demands for our time & energy.
The peace from God is with us in long checkout lines, crowded parties, & when we’re sharing a couch with one person too many. God’s peace is always with us right in the very center of His star. If we can just be still, we will be comforted with knowing that He is the God who loves us wherever He finds us. Amen.
“Comfort, comfort ye My people, speak ye peace,” thus saith our God; “Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning beneath their sorrows’ load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them; tell her that her sins I cover & her warfare now is over.” Make ye straight what long was crooked; make the rougher places plain. Let your hearts be true & humble, as befits His holy reign. For the glory of the Lord now over earth is shed abroad, & all flesh shall see the token that His Word is never broken. Amen. LSB 347:1, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet