God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [from Isaiah 2]
Our congregation is just finishing up a bicentennial year. One of the things we’ve done is to celebrate and remember different eras of the last 200 years. Some people commented that so much of U.S. history is marked by significant wars—something they already knew but just don’t think about very often.
When Isaiah says that nations will beat their swords into plowshares, what’s your reaction? A skeptical “yeah, right” seems most reasonable. We have, like Isaiah, lived to see horror on battlefields and in cities, and stubborn anger in every nation and group. Is cynicism the only legitimate reaction to calls for peace?
But as we enter Advent, it’s appropriate to turn our hearts to the spirit of peace.
Advent is a time of both waiting and preparation.
Waiting is what we do, when it comes to peace. Waiting to hear the outcome of peace talks. Waiting for Syria to behave better. Waiting for Egypt to settle internal differences. Waiting for our own elected officials to get along.
What about preparation, though? How do we prepare for peace?
By walking in the way of peace ourselves. Which isn’t easy.
Spirituality in Advent—peace in Advent—takes many forms. It may be deciding to let go of anxiety in the face of too much to do. Or determining to speak kindly to your family or neighbor, or starting to let go of an old hurt. It may mean praying for someone who annoys you or refusing to repeat (or share on Facebook) a mean comment. Peace could be looking into the face of an antagonist and seeing your own countenance reflected there. Maybe peace for you is deciding to spend a day volunteering instead of shopping, or choosing to donate to a cause that will advance justice, instead of buying that sweater you don’t really need.
In these next weeks, as our hearts turn toward Bethlehem, may peace be our meditation, our goal, our way of being. The swords of anger and agitation in our own hearts are slowly remolded into plowshares of kindness and mercy. Then, our reaction to Isaiah’s words can also be remolded, from “yeah, right” into “may it be so.”
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2013