Advent Week 4 – Peace- 20 December 2015

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

Micah 5: 2 – 5a

The Ruler from Bethlehem

2 *But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.

Hebrews 10: 5 – 10

5Consequently, when Christ* came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
6 in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
(in the scroll of the book* it is written of me).’
8When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will* that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1: 39 – 45

Mary Visits Elizabeth

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’



When I was at prep school, we had a tradition that whenever someone was having a bit of mild biffo with someone else, all the weaker party had to do was yell, “Pax!” and the conflict came to an end.

“Pax” is of course the Latin word for ‘peace’, so when you yelled “Peace!” the other guy stopped twisting your arm or whatever he happened to be doing. Boarding schools are places of gentleness and kindness of course, so one could make one’s way unscathed through the day with this one word, “Peace!”


The cessation of hostility, however, didn’t mean you were going to find a culture of peace round the next bend, especially if you met a bully in a bad mood.


Peace has also been associated with extreme violence at times in history. The “Pax Romana,” as it was called, referred to the relative lack of unlawful behaviour you would encounter within the boundaries of the Roman Empire because the Romans ran what amounted to a police state. By and large, criminals were too scared to operate, but then so was freedom.

The cessation of criminal behaviour did not mean you were not going to encounter state terrorism, as many a Jew found out. Political oppression was just about complete.


So if true peace is not the absence of its opposite, then what is it?

Winston Churchill gets a little closer to the mark. He said,

“In War: Resolution,
In Defeat: Defiance,
In Victory: Magnaminity
In Peace: Good Will.”

But even this only gets us half way. What Churchill is describing is closely allied to the ethic of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21: 24a).

Churchill has taken us from the licentious world of human relations in the average English boarding school to the ordered world of legalism: tit for tat.

Or is peace an absence of worry? After all, Paul says to the Philippians: 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6 – 7)

Jesus in Matthew 6 says something very similar 31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32 (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33 Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.

Is this Christian peace? An absence of worry? Not really.


What is Christian peace? What especially is the peace that the angels announced to the shepherds looking after their flocks near Bethlehem?

The peace Jesus brings is not simply an absence of its opposite. That is like trying to describe a tranquil little English hamlet to someone by saying “Imagine London, shrink it and get rid of the hustle and bustle.”


To understand the kind of peace our reading from the prophet Micah speaks of, we really need to look at its predictions about the Messiah.

2 *But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel

The clue lies in the word “rule”. When Jesus arrived he said the Kingdom of God is upon you. Now, kings rule; they have a preferred way of life and it is followed.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says we are to petition the Father as follows:

Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven


The single most significant characteristic of the rule of God is peace.

While Isaiah says to Israel, If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river (Isaiah 48: 18) he is not speaking of a striving towards obedience. He is describing a lifestyle. The commands of God (embodied in the Law of Moses) are loved by those who love God – they depict the ways of God. Psalm 119: 165 expresses it better, Great peace have those who love your law.

Yes, peace involves the absence of hostility, violence, worry and all manner of bad; but essentially it involves an entire lifestyle   – a way of life that acknowledges the rule of God: it involves that very Jewish concept of shalom (of peace).

Shalom is more than just simply peace; it is a complete peace.

According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. In short it is the lifestyle that accompanies a healthy following of the Prince of Peace, Jesus – the Messiah.

When Micah says 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.

he is describing the Messiah rooted and grounded in God the Father.

The huge crowd of angels which the shepherds see in Luke 2 say
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Jesus is described in Isaiah 9: 6 as the Prince of Peace
So when we think of the peace that is the theme of this week in Advent, it is literally wrapped up in swaddling clothes, it is found in the person of a little baby, born on Bethlehem 2000 years ago to a humble little family; it is inseparable from the person of Jesus.

When Jesus the Christ lives within us, when we are in the words of Jesus to  Nicodemus, “born from on high,” when we cultivate a deep friendship with him, the characteristics of shalom grow within and flow from within us.

Crucially (if you will forgive the pun) peace is made between us and God, and as a result peace is not so much that which we seek, but that which characterises us.


May God’s peace grow and flow from you this Advent and Christmas time.




‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*  (Luke 2: 14)



Heavenly Father, you have sent us the Prince of Peace. May we, who so earnestly look for peace for ourselves, be so filled with the life of your Son, that we might be fired to share the gift of His peace with all who need you. Amen.


24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

(Numbers 6)