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Advent Reflections @ CEC - December 7, 2020

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart. –Francis of Assisi

Scripture & Devotion: Scripture focus: Luke 1:76-79

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give the people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

The path of peace

If I were to ask which part of the Biblical account of the Christmas story most people associate with the word “peace”, it would probably be the angels’ song recorded in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” But the aforementioned focus passage of scripture is from the first chapter of Luke’s gospel, prior to the account of Jesus’s birth. These are the words of the priest Zechariah, and the child he refers to is his son John, the cousin of Jesus who would come to be known as John the Baptist.

In the third chapter of Luke, John has already grown to manhood and is preaching along the banks of the Jordan River. As prophesied in the Old Testament, he has become “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’” (Isaiah 40:3). John urged the people to repent from sin and to return to righteous living, but the most important aspect of his mission was to pave the way for the arrival of the Messiah, God’s salvation in the person of Jesus, the coming Christ.

The words of Zechariah highlight God’s mercy and forgiveness, pointing with expectation to a Savior who will bring light and life in the midst of darkness and death. These words take on an even deeper significance for us in this strange year of 2020, a time when war still rages in parts of the globe, when poverty and ignorance and racism and injustice still exist, even within our own country. Furthermore, in this time of the COVID pandemic, the shadow of death seems ever-present. How is it possible to find peace at such a time and in such circumstances?

We tend to think of peace as a state of calm serenity, sitting still with eyes closed and mind at rest. We use the word in phrases like “peaceful slumber” or “peace and tranquility” or “peace and quiet.” But it strikes me when I read this passage that peace as it is portrayed here is not an attitude of mind or a state of being. According to this passage, peace is a path.

Paths go somewhere. They exist for people to travel along as a way to get from one place to another. Rather than merely a feeling, the absence of conflict or anxiety, peace is a roadway through whatever circumstances life brings. It is not about sitting still; it is about continuing to walk along a route where Jesus came to “guide our feet.” The path of peace is not a poorly-marked trail upon which to wander and potentially become lost; it is a way along which God in his mercy desires to lead us. We have a traveling companion in the person of Jesus and a roadmap (or direction-finding app, if you prefer) in God’s Word to help us get from day to day and from season to season, for all time.

At this holiday time, let us remember that the “peace” of God that the Christmas angels sang about was meant not only for one night or one group of people at one specific time and place in history. Let us begin to think about peace as a path God would have us walk along with him, assured of his care and trusting in his son, our Savior and guide, throughout all the days of our lives.

Cindy Graff Prayer:

Lord, your word is full of images of our path - Your words are the path of life, the path of peace. We thank You for Your presence with us on the path of peace.

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