Sunday, December 4, 2016

peace on earth, good will to...whom?

In some Advent traditions today focuses on the theme of peace. The verse that is familiar to many on this theme comes from Luke 2:14 where the angels proclaim “peace on earth, good will to all.”

Now, Advent reminds us that God took on human nature in hopes of restoring us to God’s nature. And the wonder of it is: God did this for everyone, not just those we like.

The other day I was listening to a Christmas carol and the song portrayed this season as a time where we especially gather with our family and friends. The song, as nice as it is, reveals how “off” our vision is concerning Advent’s meaning. Advent is not about our family and friends; it’s about our enemies.

God’s peace has teeth. Advent is a time when we remember that God throws a Christmas party to which he invites not his friends but his enemies.

If we do not feel challenged by such a proposition during Advent, I question whether we understand the meaning of the season at all. We tend to equate peace with mere tranquility. But if our notion of peace only extends to those we already love, our world is doomed.

God’s Advent peace reaches deeper, thankfully. God’s Advent challenges us to consider how the thing we hate in our enemy is also in us. God’s identification with us gives us a model to follow. During Advent, God invites us to identify with our enemies because that is what God did in the first Advent. Therefore, in this season, we do well to remember that all of us are a mixture of good and bad, our enemies included.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn put it this way: “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” (from The Gulag Archipelago)

God’s Advent reminds us of the humanity we share with our enemies and it reminds us that such humanity is inestimably valuable, indestructibly priceless and sacred. God’s Advent proclaims that only through such a remembrance, and through intimate identification with our enemies, is true peace possible.

Indeed, Advent hope dares to pray and look for a world where we will have no more enemies because of such identification. The prospect sounds preposterous but that is the power of Advent peace, take it or leave it.

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