Advent and the path of peace

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:68-79

After the priest Zechariah’s mouth was opened at the birth of his son, John (the Baptist), he uttered a remarkable prophecy concering God’s promise to his people. The horn of salvation spoken of is no other than the Lord himself, Jesus, the son of David, the son of God (in a ruling sense). And this is all anticipated beginning in the ministry to come of his own son, John, who would prepare the way for the Lord and the salvation he would bring.

The end of the prophecy speaks of the result of this in the lives of God’s people: “to guide our feet into the path of peace.” The peace referred to here is in terms of shalom, meaning much more than the absence of war, but a state or condition of flourishing. It is a peace not imposed by the sword such as was known at that time under Rome. But it’s a peace that both transcends such, and is ultimately to take over all things completely, forever.

But in the prophecy and in the context of the rest of the New Testament, that peace is for God’s people in the present life. And it is “the way” (NRSV) or “the path of peace” (NIV). Again, it is much more than the absence of conflict and war. Though to say it is that is revolutionary enough in this world. And to refuse to participate in such is an important beginning. Jesus’ teaching and life certainly exemplify that.

The path of peace involves the way of the cross in this life: loving our enemies, doing good to them and praying for them. Blessing those who curse us. Forgiving those who persecute us, or worse (note Stephen’s witness and prayer when he was martyred). It is a peace which seeks to lift others into a communion and life of peace. And of course that peace is solely in King Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who is our peace. In and through him we find this peace, which is not just about our own relationship to God, but from that, our relationship to others, even to our enemies. So that what we’re about is bringing all others into that same way or path of peace. As we endeavor day after day to live that out. Confessing our sins along the way, when we don’t. But continuing on and growing in that in our churches, families, at work, in our neighborhoods, and across the world. As we continue to pray for God’s kingdom to come, and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, which we know is beginnning now, and will be completely fulfilled in and through King Jesus.

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