Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’*
On this snow-covered morning, it feels very peaceful outside. And as much as I would like for us to soon be gathering in our beautiful sanctuary for worship, on this, the second Sunday of Advent, I will admit it feels very peaceful inside, too, sitting in a comfy chair, in warm, comfy clothes, sipping a hot cup of cocoa.
Which is fitting in way, because peace is the theme of the second Sunday of Advent. A day when we often remember that the angels heralded the promise of peace.
But it’s also helpful to remember that peace is not just a part of the Christmas story. It’s a central theme in all the world’s major religions.
The psalmist called on the people of Israel to pray for peace. Jesus proclaimed that those who make peace are blessed. In Arabic, the word for peace — salaam — is the root word from which we get the word Islam.
Along with the experience of being loved, the longing for peace unites us in our humanity: for peace on earth, for peace in our communities and in our families, for inner peace in our own lives.
We pray for it, we yearn for it, we long for it, we work for it.
Yet peace often feels like an ever elusive goal. Bombs go off every day somewhere in the world. Violence is a way of life in some communities. Whole regions of the world seem mired in perennial animosity between geopolitical neighbors.
Which is why I love the very simple affirmation: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
I love that because I believe it’s true. Peace on a global level begins with peace on a personal level.
But how does that happen? In a world as turbulent and chaotic as ours is, how do we achieve peace in our own lives?
I believe peace is not just a state of being that we enjoy, but a decision we make.
Every time we chose not to respond to anger with anger, we make peace.
Every time we chose not to respond to hate with hate, we make peace.
Every time we chose to meet uncertainty with faith rather than fear, we make peace.
Is it easy? No it’s not. Like all the things that matter the most, the practice of peace takes effort. But it’s holy work, the very thing that made the angels sing.
So, on this snowy morning, I hope you are safe and warm, and enjoying a peaceful start to your Sunday. And in the spirit of peace, and with those angels in mind, I leave you with one of my favorite Christmas carols…