Peace in Advent by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

Psalm 85:8-13(NKJV)

Is peace having everything that we need and want? Is this our peace? Is peace not wanting for anything? Is peace a sense of accomplishing all I can for my family while other families are distressed? Is this peace? Is peace having a sense of calm during times of difficulty – Is this peace? Having all the material possessions that we will ever need or want – is this our peace? Or is peace making it back home safely, dodging bullets, backlash, and bandits as we go back and forth about our business?

Psalm 85 is before us this week as a petition, a corporate prayer delivered amid challenging times for the Israelites. It was a cry for help. There were promises and expectations post-exile that did not manifest. Although God restored, there was still disappointment and despair in the people and their circumstances.

There lies within a poetic and dynamic promise that God’s salvation is at hand, an Old Testament form of the announcement on earth, peace among those with whom God is well-pleased. Verse 9 is a thematic portrait of the powers at work in salvation, which creates shalom. This is key because I believe that salvation cannot be separated from shalom. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is nurtured in Shalom.

We read metaphors of mercy and trust meeting together; righteousness and peace having kissed; and righteousness having an all-seeing eye, looking down from heaven, and the Lord giving the Israelites what is good for the land. God promises good for the land for an Old Testament generation; however, God does not stop there.    

We believe that peace is rooted in who God is, and the characteristics that make God’s activity present in the world. God’s faithfulness (emet), covenant loyalty (hesed), righteousness (sedeq), and peace (shalom). These attributes conform our lives to God’s promise, so it is in these attributes that we transcend human endeavors, difficulties, and setbacks. We transcend hate, evil intentions, and greed. We hold to our salvation – that dynamic process in which the character of God in all its fullness is at work, individually and collectively.

The liturgical preacher or worship leader delivered the good news of peace and called for a response. She said, “I will hear what the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace. Surely salvation is near to those who fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.”

There is no peace without salvation. There is no righteousness without salvation, no loyalty, no covenant, and no faithfulness. The birth of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the coming of God in this world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” He left us with his peace that came at a cost. “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” And so, I want to consider the world’s need for salvation, as a response to our need for peace. I know we are redeemed believers in Jesus Christ, however something deep within this text speaks to the act of salvation given in the promise of a baby.  

I was in a worship planning meeting several years ago for General Assembly. We planned the theme, “Healing for the Nations,” selecting the nightly scriptures to be used for preaching and teaching from Genesis to Revelation. When we came to the New Testament, some in the room wanted to bypass calvary to get to the scripture in Revelation, where there was healing for the nations. Three of us opposed, sharing, “we cannot bypass calvary in order to be healed.” Calvary represents the offer of salvation, where all healing will come. And someone finally asked, “Well, what is salvation?”

I said to myself, “We are in trouble.” I don’t know if our need is peace, when it really may be the manifestation of salvation past, present, and future that needs a rekindling work in and through us. Our faith comes from hearing the word of God, trusting in the word of God, by following this baby, born in the back side of a stable.      

Salvation came, and the need for salvation remained. In other words, God is not through with us yet. When God gets through with us, we shall come forth as pure gold refined in the fires of life. God’s faithfulness, covenant loyalty, and righteousness is a continuous work. And this work promises us peace. This baby made salvation possible for all of us. And from salvation, comes peace in God’s present activity in our lives. God’s presence is alive, glorious, and good. When you experience God’s presence, come back, and tell us about it!   

Church, we can live in the peace of God’s peace, and the covenant of God’s loyalty toward us. In other words, because of God’s salvific activity in you and in me, everything is going to be all right. This is peace!