By Steve Lammers
As we’ve entered Advent season, our pastors are taking turns reflecting on the symbolism of the four candles of the Advent Wreath. This coming Sunday, we will light the second candle representing “peace."
That word peace is everywhere this time of year. In church, you’ll sing about it and hear it in sermons. In Hobby Lobby, you’ll see it in on ornaments and wreaths. In the movie Miss Congeniality, you’ll even hear it coming from the mouths of beauty contestants. But what is the “peace on earth” we celebrate at Jesus birth? What did the heavenly hosts mean when they proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased (Luke 2:14).”
The Old Testament word for peace is “shalom”. Shalom is far more than a cliché hoping for inner calm or the absence of war. Rather, it takes on the meaning of God bringing an all-encompassing, universal well-being to the nations. For example, in Isaiah 9, a child was expected to be born who would be called “Prince of Peace… and of his government and of peace there will be no end… and he will rule with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” The result, when his rule was to be completed, would be a world of perfect harmony (see Isaiah 11:1-9; Acts 3:18-21; Romans 16:20).
Cornelius Plantinga describes it this way: The Old Testament prophets dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps. People would work in peace and with fruitful effect. Lambs could lie down with lions. All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood; and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God and delight in God…. This webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but… in the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
This is why Jesus, our “Prince of Peace," was born: To endure “the chastisement that brought us peace (Isaiah 53:5).” So this week, as we light the second candle, may we celebrate “the universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight” God began through the birth of His Son.