Advent Devotions 2017
December 8, 2017
Let There Be Peace on Earth
Recently, Ken Burns’ PBS special on the Vietnam War brought into our homes the horrors of war with its gruesome cost in human life, national strife, and political upheaval. Years ago, we had a dear friend who wrote down his Vietnam memories and brought the manuscript to me saying, “I need someone to read this. There are things here I’ve never told anyone else, not even my wife.” His stories were gripping, some humorous, some touching, but most were just plain raw images of warfare. In reading the manuscript, I came to realize that some of the deepest wounds of warfare have nothing to do with physical injury, but rather the horror of memories that continue to plague the soldier’s mind.
We live in a culture that has become accustomed to warfare and terrorism, not just in foreign countries but here at home as well. There was a time in the history of Israel when that nation was also focused on military campaigns and success in battle. Fueling their national vision was the memory of Joshua’s might and David’s military prowess. They were a nation of wealth, power, and success. Their vision was one where other nations would be forced into subservience and Israel would reign supreme.
The 2nd chapter of Isaiah was written in the 8th century BC, before the Babylonian exile and the dismemberment of Israel. Though it was written at a time of military success, the vision of Isaiah 2 is dramatically different from what the people were accustomed to thinking:
- They were focused on the wealth displayed at their king’s palace; Isaiah speaks of God’s house, the temple.
- Their vision was of other nations being forced to come to Jerusalem to pay tribute; Isaiah speaks of all people coming to Jerusalem to celebrate peace.
- Their hopes were centered on the success of their nation; Isaiah speaks of all nations coming together.
- Their culture was focused on military victory; the vision of Isaiah speaks of an end to war.
Isaiah 2:5 expresses the high point of this vision of peace: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
That was a startling message to Israel. It is just as challenging for us today. Like Israel, we need a new vision for our time, a vision that can move us from the fear of terrorism and the carnage of war. The pathway toward peace in our modern world is not easy, but that must always be our goal. At the first Christmas, the angels sang of peace. Those angels can sing again if we commit ourselves to building a more just and peaceful world. Our personal commitment to peace is best demonstrated by confronting injustice in the world around us. What a marvelous Christmas it would be, if we could focus our hopes, our dreams, and our actions on building a peaceful kingdom where righteousness reigns.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Written by Tom Graves
Art by Emelia