Peace in our World
How can we be peacemakers in a world that is in turmoil?
Simeon’s Song: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. Leviticus 2:29-32
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
Peace is one of the familiar words in the Nativity story and in the Carols we sing. There is a sense that at least at this time of year we will recognize that Christmas is about peace and goodwill to others. But as quickly as we sing about it we also recognize that peace seems to be farther away from our reality every turn around the sun. So, how do we live as Christ followers knowing that in Jesus we have peace but also experience warring personal desires, confrontations with others, and increasing world hostility? Then we read that Jesus said to his disciples after warning them that they would receive pushback, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) But turning some pages he also said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). The seeming contradiction between God’s offer of peace (shalom meaning wholeness) and life that is fraught with struggle is a tension that we all experience.
Simeon’s presence in the Christmas narrative gives insight to that struggle. We aren’t told Simeon’s age but traditionally he is shown as an elderly man. We are told that he was righteous, devout, and lived guided by the Holy Spirit. He knew his Scriptures, and at one point was affirmed that in his lifetime he would personally see the arrival of the promised Messiah. We get the sense that he was a man whose faith was strong enough to survive years of waiting and watching for God’s promise to be fulfilled. He was not free from political, social, and economic tension; Jerusalem was not a peaceful place for the Jewish people. They were required to submit to the Romans and there was also religious division among themselves. Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for their purification and dedication ceremony and when they entered the temple, Simeon was there. Scripture doesn’t say that he questioned or doubted who they were, he recognized immediately God’s promise fulfilled. He took baby Jesus in his arms praised God and blessed his parents. He held for that moment what he had longed and lived for, God’s gift, a glorious shalom moment. Then he turned to Mary and with harsh but honest words says that her baby would divide Israel; he would be misunderstood and rejected and she would experience a sword-like pain that would shatter her heart. Simeon knew the paradox of life, God’s salvation offers transforming peace to a world that fights against it.
This year, this Advent, the struggle and longing for peace is more real and urgent. We wait and watch, wonder and lament, “How much longer, O Lord?” I also wonder how long Simeon waited to see Jesus? Advent invites us not only to focus on how long we wait but also to think about how we are waiting. Jesus offered peace to his disciples not as a ticket to life without pain or struggle, but a promise of his love and presence with them. None of them lived or died in peaceful circumstances but love and presence gave them an inner peace that endured Simeon lived his life waiting to see God’s promise fulfilled and he had peace. What is your longing? How is God present with you as you wait? Carrie Underwood and John Legend have a song Hallelujah, and the last line of one verse is a good prayer for sinking our longings into.
Ooh, let there be peace on earth
Let the lonely join together, let them know their worth
Ooh, let the children know
There's a brighter day ahead, let's hold on to hope
And on the coldest evening in this December
Let us pray the spirit of love will linger.
May you experience God’s spirit of love lingering with you and for your longings may that be enough for you today.