The Presence of Peace
The season of Advent lays out for us four postures to consider in the waiting. So while we wait, what do we tell kids about peace? What do we say to each other, let alone to kids, in a world that is riddled with injustice, oppression, inequity, war, hatred, division, about peace?
I love the way the season of Advent lays out for us four postures to consider in the waiting. The weeks leading up to Christmas that can feel like forever to a child often feel like a blink for us grownups! The lists are long, the details are many, the events to remember are seemingly daily, and they’re worth all that goes into each one. It’s easy in the busy to forget that it’s a season of waiting when it feels like we are rushing!
We are, indeed, a people in waiting. We live in a Kingdom now and not yet.
As Jesus-followers, we are literally living in the time and space between Jesus’ advents, called to live 'on earth as it is in Heaven.' We are to be like Jesus while he is not present with us, to stand in the gap, to give evidence of a very good God who gave His very good and perfect Son, the Prince of Peace, for you and for me. And we do so while we wait for Jesus to return, to rule and reign.
So while we wait, what do we tell kids about peace? What do we say to each other, let alone to kids, in a world that is riddled with injustice, oppression, inequity, war, hatred, division, about peace?
I recently heard a local minister preach on peace and what he said has repeated itself in my thoughts ever since: 'peace is not so much about the absence of something as it is about a presence.'
He's right: we often describe peace as a feeling or a sense we have when something ends, or when we experience freedom from something. It is the antidote to the thing that caused us restlessness, stress, or conflict. Peace is often described as an absence of such things. And that’s not wrong: peace is the absence of Eden. Things are not as God intended them to be for us from the very beginning, walking around in His presence, with Him.
The minister pressed into the idea that peace is a presence. When peace shows up, he suggested, it takes over as it enters. It takes up all the extra space in a room and exhales on all in its presence. Sometimes we can be not fighting and still not be peaceful. An absence of war does not predicate the presence of peace.
He then asked us if we knew someone that just makes us feel better by showing up. I wonder if such a person comes to mind for you. You’re at a social gathering, you’ve agreed to go, but only because you’re expecting who to join you? What is that sense that comes over you when they arrive? What is it that allows your shoulders to come down and your eyes light up at the sight of them? Why did it matter that they were in the room?
Our peace is a person, too. Jesus, Prince of Peace is the very person, the very essence of shalom.
Shalom often only gets translated as 'peace' in English, but it is multi-faceted, and not quite so simply 'peace.' Beyond 'absence of conflict' as one definition of peace, shalom also means completeness, soundness, and well-being. To experience shalom is to experience a sense of well-rounded well-being, to offer a presence of sound mind, and to be wholly present.
Jesus said 'I have spoken all these things while I am still with you. But the Father will send the Friend in my name to help you. The Friend is the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of everything I have said to you. I leave my peace with you. I give my peace to you. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid' John 14:25-27 (NIRV).
Jesus left us with the His Spirit, the very presence of the Prince of Peace himself. And he qualifies it: not as the world gives, for if it was, there would be reason to be troubled and afraid. Because the world gives peace by creating a void of something else. Jesus gives peace by taking up all the space around it and leaving no room for that which peace consumes.
Shalom, or completeness, is who Jesus is. When He said, 'It is finished,' there was shalom even in His last breath. He completed what He was sent to accomplish and, in so doing, made the presence of His perfect peace available to all when He returned and left us a Friend. That Friend goes before us, takes up the space in the room, and allows us to enter in peace, knowing that He leaves His wherever He is.
I wonder if walking around with Jesus was a little like a walk in the garden for His friends—a glimpse of what could be, or an understanding of the way it was supposed to be. I wonder if, with every step, the hem of his robe pulled back the curtain of Eden for even just a moment: God’s love, God’s presence, God with us, on earth as it is in heaven.
Friend, you are that presence for the kids and families you serve. For that child who scans the room, anxiously looking for their person as they arrive; for that mom you held while she told her story; for that youth that came to Jesus at your feet and now invites others to do the same: you are the embodiment of the presence of peace by the Holy Spirit. Your presence brings His presence, and His presence is peace.
We are a people in waiting for our Prince of Peace to return. Advent reminds us that we wait still. But we do not wait alone, and we do not wait without shalom. 'My peace I leave with you,' He said. He left His presence, the very presence of Peace, and so we can rest assured: He is with us while we wait.
A few questions for your reflection as Christmas approaches:
Where do you need to experience the presence of peace right now?
Has peace previously meant the absence of something or the removal of something for peace to be present for you? Does something need to move out of the way for peace to enter?
How would you describe the experience of peace? Can you invite Jesus to be your Prince of Peace and remind you of His presence?
P.S. You can use these prompts to help create a prayer experience for kids and families, too!
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