Hope, Peace, Joy, Love.
Please feel free to experience any of these at any time. Maybe you can have them all at the same time— ? It’s worth a try. Collect all four !
Semi-seriously… the notion of Advent leading up to Christmas was developed among Christian churches over a period of centuries. The still-more-refined notion of having themes for the Sundays during Advent is a quite modern addition, and it takes lots of different forms. As far as I can tell, it’s one of those things dreamed up by publishers or greeting-card manufacturers, like National Wear Blue Socks Day: it ain’t in the Bible.
Nevertheless, we may find it useful to explore some basic aspects of what it means to prepare for the coming of Christ— such as hope, peace, joy, and love. Really, how wrong can we go with these ?
This week, we will give some special attention to God’s peace. We must keep in mind always that God’s peace is not like the world’s peace. For people focused on this world, “peace” may look like the absence of violence or rest from annoyances or
distractions. But God’s peace is a spiritual gift which comes with the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, God With Us (Immanu-El, in Hebrew). In the Old Testament, peace is shalom- well-being and good relations among neighbors.
† † †
This week we have a Scripture reading from the little book called Baruch. It emerged, probably in the Hebrew language, around 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. (though the only ancient versions of it still in existence are written in the Greek language.) It is written to encourage Jews to remain faithful to God and to continue practicing their faith at Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah, who was active around Jerusalem when the Babylonians destroyed the city and took the higher social classes away into exile, had a secretary named Baruch. However, that was over 300 years before this book called Baruch came out. Nevertheless, Christians have honored the book of Baruch for its faithful spirit, publishing it as part of the Bible since earliest times. Protestants stopped including it in Protestant versions of the Bible beginning in the 1500s.
Judge for yourself the spirit and message of Baruch, presented here in the New Revised Standard translation:
1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
3 for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
4 For God will give you evermore the name, "Righteous Peace, Godly Glory."
5 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
6 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
7 For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
8 The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God's command.
9 For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of His glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from Him.
Sounds like Advent to me!
May you and yours, this season, make straight in the wilderness of this life a highway for our God.
IMHO, that’s what Advent is all about.