For us today, we think of peace as the absence of war, as anytime there is not explicit violence. But for Jesus, peace meant much more than that. While this gospel is written in Greek, the word Jesus himself would have spoken was “Shalom,” in either Hebrew or Aramaic. Shalom means many things, including peace. But it also means Wholeness. Completeness. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Right relationships, with others and with God.
Easter is not the end. It is the beginning. It is the beginning of a long journey of faith and discovery – of who we are as redeemed by Christ, of who God is as savior and king and destroyer of death, and of what salvation looks like, not just in the life to come, but here in our world today.
And the same is for us in prayer. Our daily lives are filled with so much noise and worries and thoughts, we barely pay attention to the present moment we are in. We don’t notice the smells, the sounds, the sights that are around us. We miss people and conversations. We miss the gift that I am alive and this day did not have to be.
We aren’t Christ. We aren’t the savior of this world. But people can see Christ’s love through you. People can see Christ’s grace through you. People can learn about forgiveness and mercy, welcome and love, God’s presence and peace and good news of grace through you.
This Sunday we get to hear who this message is for. And we find out that this message is for the Simeons and Annas of the world. It is for those who have waited and hoped for something better, something greater than what they know today. It is for those who have been forgotten, overlooked, and ignored. It is for those who have struggled, and hope that their struggle is not in vain. It is for those who still believe that God sees them and knows them and loves them.
Out of all the miraculous and wonderful places in this great, big universe, why did God choose to come down and be with us? The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr answers it this way:
“Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity… Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.”
In Advent, we are called to be witnesses of God’s goodness. We are called to sing out God’s great love in Christ. In this season, we remember that even in such a messy and broken world as ours, God chose to come and live as one of us, to teach us, heal us, save us, and claim us as beloved children. And we remember that Christ is coming again.
One of the most quoted scripture passages are these words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Christmas is God coming to earth, taking on our very flesh, doing the most crazy thing possible to show us the fullness of God’s love. No other religion or tradition around the world has ever proclaimed a similar story. Because it’s too crazy, too amazing, too unimaginable that the God who created the universe, who made the stars and the planets, who breathed us out of dust, would come and live as one of us.
But here is Jesus saying, the one who created all of this for us, the one who sent his only Son into the world, the one who breathed us into life – doesn’t stay at a distance, doesn’t stay immune and safe from the messiness and troubles of this life.