ADVENT - Week 4 (Peace)

Advent Week 4: Peace by Lisa Crow

This week we light the final purple candle for peace, as well as the pink candle for joy, and the purple candles for faith and hope. We remember the message of the angels who said “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men.”

There have been many times in my life when I have lamented my lack of peace. In fact, if you were privy to my prayer life this week, you would have heard much lament and me crying out for peace. In moments of quiet and chaos, my heart has been upset. It seems like, the more I beg for peace, the more I find myself in situations that upend my effort in reaching calm. You see, I’m quite stubborn and I think I know best, so I sometimes tell God exactly how I can have peace in my life. I say “Lord, if this situation would be resolved ‘this way,’ or if this person would love me ‘that way,’ then I would have peace.”

I don’t know about you, but there are moments in my life where God is speaking steadily to me and I just don’t hear or understand it clearly. I press forward in my asking, thinking that, if my heart gets more insistent, then God will see how genuine I am and will give me what I want. It is only after listening to His voice that I understand how God is giving me something better; He’s giving me Himself. The truth is that, every time I’ve begged God in crying out for peace, I got a “yes!” “Yes, it’s yours!” But, this hasn’t bred contentment because it wasn’t ultimately peace that I wanted.

Much of the time, when I ask God for peace, I’m really asking Him to take away my need for peace. You see, I don’t actually want to change. Instead, I want my circumstances to change. This means that I regularly need to repent of the false belief that my circumstances can give me peace. I need to confess to God that I seek peace everywhere but the one place it is found; in Jesus. The truth is that peace doesn’t mean that everything is ok. In fact, it’s not even the feeling that things are ok. Peace is a fact! Jesus is peace, which means that only He can provide it. Ephesians 2 tells us that Jesus became our peace. This tells us why Jesus is the only source of peace — because He is the only one worthy to stand before God and take our place. He is the only one good enough to qualify to be our peace. You see, when I say that only Jesus can provide peace, it’s not just a nice sounding sentiment. To have peace is to know Jesus. We receive peace only through Him. When our names were added to the Book of Life, peace was given to us, and it can never be revoked. In other words, God’s peace for us will not wear out or quit. It is eternal.

Even in weeks, of what feels like utter chaos, where everything feels like it’s falling apart and I want to crawl back into bed and hide, I have peace. I am not saying that I always feel peace, but that I have peace. I own it, because Jesus is mine and I am his. He is the vine and I am the branch, and so I have peace. I can more easily separate my head from my body than I can separate my soul from peace. There is nowhere I can go where peace is not with me. Jesus’ blood declares it over us. There is not one thing that anyone can say or do to remove us from His peace, because God will not leave us.

Let me be very clear, I am not saying that felt peace is bad. I am not saying that felt peace is not God-given; of course it can be. Feelings of love can absolutely follow love in truth; and so it is with peace. However, the feeling is not the whole. Do not short change what peace is by simply turning it into a feeling. Even as I write this blog, I do not feel peace, but friends, I have it.

I hope that, as you read the quote of my prayers at the beginning of this blog, you noticed the idolatry I was asking God to aid me in. I hope that a massive red flag popped up in your heart and you saw that I was building an altar to a false god. I hope even more that you prayed for me, because I need prayer as I try to make idols out of everything! I think that, when we take a good look at our sin, the extreme offense is off-putting and we tend to shy away from it. But this leads us to downplay the magnificence and holiness of God. Even though it’s uncomfortable, let’s really look at it. When I say in my heart, “if this situation would go a certain way and then I would have peace,” I am rejecting the peace that Jesus is and saying (to His face) that this outcome is better than Him. I am saying it is more satisfying to me than He is. I am declaring in my heart that while Jesus dying on the cross was nice, what I really need is a resolved situation. Would I put it that way in my prayer? No, of course not! I wrap it up in nice words like peace and love and try to pass it off as something righteous, instead of the offensive nasty thing that it is. Sin is like that. It tries to pass itself off as something good and right. It seeks to undermine all of the freedom that God has brought and the true peace that He has provided through Jesus’ blood.

In my sin, I sometimes say to God, “I will do what you want, just make my heart not care about this thing.” When I do this, I’m saying that I don’t want to reorient my heart to God’s way. I don’t want to put the work into hearing His word and his voice. I’m asking for Him to take my actions, but to leave my heart alone. Just think about the way I say it; I didn’t ask God to make my heart like His. No, I asked Him to make my heart not care. I am saying I would rather feel nothing at all than agree with God! It’s obvious now isn’t it? And, in truth, it’s kind of embarrassing (at least to me). I say I love and follow Him, but when situations don’t go as planned, I whine like a petulant child. I even asked Him for help in worshipping something else.

Thankfully, because He has spoken peace over me, God does not abandon me to my idols. He calls me away from them, and gently reminds me that my sin is trying to be master of my heart again. It is only by His peace, His blood that He has shed for me, that I am safe from this sin. So, as we light the peace candle this week, let’s remember that Jesus had not yet died on the cross when the angels declared that peace had come to mankind. They declared peace on earth because Jesus, peace Himself, was born. He was born, not as a coincidence or by chance, but with the express intention of making peace between God and mankind.

Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-21, Ephesians 2

Thing Remembered: The message of the angels “Peace on Earth, good will towards men.”

Discussion Questions:

What do you think of when you hear the word peace?

Does this scripture change what your view of peace?

Even with being a Christian, do we still feel broken and not at peace sometimes?

Is that ok?

What can we do about our lack of felt peace?

Hymns:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Hark the Herald, Angels Sing

Children’s craft: Have the children write the verse in the middle of a small blank canvas. Tape a dove cut out over the top of it. Have each child dip their fingers in paint and dabbing on the canvas cover all the open canvas with paint (this can also be done with bingo daubers for easier clean up, or stamp moisteners if you want to choose your own colors).

Adult craft: Print out “Peace on Earth” and a picture of a dove using a removable vinyl and a Cricut machine. Place them on a blank wooden sign. Spray paint or brush paint over the images and peel when paint is dry. Attach hardware to the back to make hangable. (you can pre paint a base color if you don’t want the wooden color to shine through. Also don’t forget to either paint the sides of your sign or edge exceptionally well.)

Closing Prayer: O, Lord, stir up thy power, and come with great might help us, that thy grace and merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sin impedes. Who livest and reignest forever

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