"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:14
One of the themes we celebrate and explore during the Advent season, is peace. You have seen the cute signs, heard the nice songs, smiled at the charlie brown quote; Peace on earth! That is one of the taglines of the season.
Yet, when we look at the world and even within our own souls. There can be a complete disconnect between what the world looks like and the promise of peace that we are supposedly celebrating.
It can be easy to forget that the message of peace that the Angels sang about is different from the “peace” of our nostalgic christmas scenes. In fact “peace on earth” did not originate in a hallmark card, it was the slogan of the Roman Empire, the dominant force of oppression that occupied Israel during the time of Jesus. “PAX ROMANA” was the peace that the Romans preached. It was peace that came at the other end of the sword and it was only available to the one wielding the sword. Peace in those days was only available to those in power. This is what makes the Angel’s announcement of peace to the lowly shepherds in the countryside so radical. The peace of Christmas is a messy, bold, subversive political statement about who is really in charge and what it really means for God’s peace to rule the day.
Jon Huckins, founder of the Global Immersion Project, shares about how the Spirit empowers us for a life of peacemaking in a conflicted world. God’s mission is restoration and joining in that restoration is our vocation and calling as His people. Living by the Spirit, we are invited to be a living reflection and embodiment of an others-oriented, enemy-loving God. So what does this look like in our neighborhoods, and even with our own families around our holiday tables?
Jon offers two key definitions:
Peace: From the Hebrew word “Shalom,”; The holistic repair of relationship.
Peacemaking: Core to our vocation as followers of Jesus; Moving towards conflict as our participation in His restoration of all things.
In his book, Mending the Divides Jon offers us a few tools of everyday peacemaking. These tools include: Seeing, Immersing, Contending, and Restoring. As we dive deeper into these tools, consider having a conversation around these questions with your friends, roommates, community group or mentor:
Peacemaking begins by seeing the Image of God in every person, but there are a lot of factors that can keep us from truly seeing the humanity, dignity, and Image of God in each and every person we encounter. Which persons or groups have you been taught to see/not to see?
Everyday Peacemaking looks like us rejecting the fight or flight instinct, and opting instead for immersion and presence. Jon says, “Peacemakers move toward conflict in order to heal, not to ‘win’.” How do we immerse not in the posture of a hero but of a dependent learner? This is exactly what the posture in which Jesus came to as as a dependent baby.
During the holiday season, when tensions can run high around the tree or dinner table because of politics or family drama, what does it mean to immerse in the space of “uncle Joe’s” rhetoric? How do we listen longer than what feels comfortable? What does it look like to remain in that space, seeking to understand rather than be understood?
Peacemaking is not passive. The way of Jesus always requires us to reject the binary “fight or flight” option, but to seek a “third way” and get creative in our approach to speak love and bring healing. When people stir up conflict, what does it look like to see past the rhetoric of others and contend for THEIR healing?
What does it mean for you in this neighborhood to contend for those broken by a broken system? Maybe the system is gentrification, immigration, racial injustice, or misogyny. How do we contend for our others in our neighborhoods and communities even at the cost of some of our preferences and comforts?
Restoration is the work of the Spirit that takes place as we see, immerse, and contend. Our role is to participate and celebrate. What has God restored in your own life and story? What would it look like for this group to celebrate that restoration?
The Christmas story is the story of how God sees us, immerses into our world as a helpless child, contends for us and not against us, and restores us unto himself. This is exactly the story that we celebrate this season but it is also the story that we are called to inherit as our own and live into everyday. We have been brought to peace with God, through Jesus’ birth, life death and resurrection. In the same way, we can now join him in this work of peace that is true, not the false peace of empire. May we live fully into this story and this calling.
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Jonathon grew up in six different states across the Western United States. He made his way to Southern California to attend Vanguard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication. Currently, he is pursuing a Master's of Divinity Degree at Azusa Pacific University where he also works doing campus ministry with college students. Jonathon is passionate about discipleship to Jesus and innovation, especially when those two spaces meet. He aspires to encourage people to live well-curated lives of purpose and passion. You can find Jonathon living in his beloved city of Costa Mesa, California with his amazing wife, Cyndi. Oh yeah, and he is a HUGE Raiders fan.