“The Irony of Peace” December 9, 2018
The Irony of Peace”
Malachi 3:1-4/ Philippians 1:3-11/ Luke 3:1-6
There are few things in this world that make life more interesting than good old fashioned irony, wouldn’t you say? The moment that we think we know what is going on –that we have it all figured out – only to find out that the reality is the complete opposite. The ironies of our world can be funny. Gary Kremen, the founder of Match.com, an online dating service, encouraged everyone he knew to join it, including his girlfriend. She eventually left him for a man she met on – you guessed it – Match.com. And they can leave you wondering: In 2002, a tree was planted in a park in Los Angeles in memory of Beatles guitarist George Harrison after his death from cancer. The tree later died after being infested with beetles.
Irony is a part of life. It can make us laugh out loud and it can make us a little embarrassed that we laughed in the first place. For example, the first man to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel died after slipping on an orange peel. Q-Tips, which are bought primarily to clean inside the ears, are sold in boxes that expressly warn, “Do not insert inside the ear canal.” The rooms in Sweden’s famous Ice Hotel are equipped with smoke detectors, and my favorite: the most shoplifted book in America is The Bible. The irony of that little factoid is almost overwhelming.
Today is the second Sunday in the season of Advent; Advent being the 4 weeks before Christmas when we as adults are constantly reminded that we have to wait…we have to wait for this magical, wonderful day that we choose to celebrate the birth of a child that would change everything. I am sure that every child who knows the agony of waiting for Christmas morning has to chuckle to themselves with the irony of that one. Last Sunday, we celebrated the theme of Hope…the thrill of hope. The hope of redemption, the hope of salvation, the hope that this blessed birth will save us from the powers of sin and death – this hope is real.
Today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, is traditionally known by the theme of Peace. We have lit the Peace candle, we have offered up the peace of Christ. At the same time, tradition dictates the reading of scripture about a certain wild man named John the Baptist. The prophet Malachi tells us (Mal 3:1) “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. Next in the gospel text, Luke writes (Lk 3:2) the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.
Enter John the Baptist: John who called out, who hollered, who demanded repentance from those who came to be baptized. This is the same wild man that heard the call of God in the desert wilderness. He was rough, wore a camel hair shirt, and he ate bugs, for crying out loud. And yes, it’s the same John the Baptizer who called the crowds a “den of vipers, a brood of snakes.” All of this to smooth the way, to make straight paths for a Messiah that we have come to know as “the Prince of Peace.” Kind of ironic, isn’t it? “Peace be with you, you nest of vipers.”
Now I’m kind of goofing around here, but the fact remains that the word “shalom,” or peace appears over 400 times in scripture, yet we would be hard pressed to agree on what is meant by the peace of Christ. We’ve been conditioned to believe that peace is, as they say, that brief glorious moment in history when everyone stands around reloading. But peace isn’t the absence of trouble. It was Robert Fulghum that once said, “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.” When the peace of Christ lives in us it is not “peaceful” at all. It’s active and alive and noisy and intentional and sometimes it gets on your nerves a bit. Because the way I understand it – if we are to truly follow the example of Jesus Christ – then peace is nothing more than the deliberate adjustment of my life, of our lives, to the will of God. Peace is nothing more than the deliberate adjustment of my life to the will of God.
We have so much to be grateful for in this season of Advent and Christmas: our faith, our faith communities, families and loved ones. Let us hold fast to the peace that surpasses understanding, the joy in the knowing that God came to us in the flesh that we might be with him forever and ever. And that’s a peace worth fighting for.
Amen & Shalom