Advent Week 4: PEACE

Luke 2:13-14 
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Matthew 5:1-12 
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 

On rereading and reflecting on the Christmas story in new ways this year, I am struck by how strange and wonderful the story is. We began with prophets from exiled people foretelling the birth of Jesus and the peace that would come and bring hope for all people, especially those living on the margins of society including immigrants, widows, and orphans. The story continued with an immigrant family making a dangerous journey to find no room upon arrival and forced to have a baby in a stable made for livestock. This migrant baby is the King of Kings, the Savior of whom the prophets foretold. The good news of the Savior’s birth was then announced by angels to shepherds, marginal people with a low place in society. The angels announced that the  good news of great joy is that through the birth of Jesus peace comes to those with whom God is pleased.

Just as the Christmas story unfolds in unexpected ways, it should not come as a surprise then that the people with whom God is pleased is not governmental officials who hold power or the Pharisees or other religious leaders. Instead, in the beatitudes in the book of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that it is the peacemakers who are the children of God. Within the beatitudes Jesus gives unexpected good news for people who are trying to live a righteous life and work for peace in the world. Jesus gives hope by declaring those who mourn will be comforted, that the poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven. As we mourn the way that immigrants are being treated, may we reach out with the love of God to be the ones who provide comfort and hope. Jesus declares that it is valued to be pure in heart, to be meek, to be peacemakers. These are the values that will create peace and hope in the world. These are the values that we are called to within the story of Advent.         

The birth of Jesus ushered in a new era in the world. Through Jesus, we gained an example of how to be in the world and work for peace and justice. Through Jesus’ life and teachings we can learn the way of actively working for peace and loving both neighbor and enemy. The angels sang a song of peace on earth and then Jesus lived out an example of how to be a peacemaker in his daily living. Jesus did this by loving the stranger and by calling out injustice. The good news of Jesus is that peace has come into the world and we are invited to join in.           

As Christmas arrives this week, I invite you to live into the values of the beatitudes and find ways to make peace during the holidays as well as in your daily living. I invite you to take the time to reread the Christmas story with new lenses considering the ways God does the unexpected and how hope is created. Look for stories of faith and joy and as you celebrate the birth of Christ. Find ways to live out your own faith during the next year and by doing so keep the spirit of Advent alive.

Thoughts to ponder
How are you making peace in the world?
What daily actions can you take to live out the Advent values of hope, faith, joy, and peace?

Actions to take
Make peacemaking a part of your daily living. Examine your life and identify ways that you can live out the values described in the Beatitudes. Spend time in prayer everyday to listen to the ways God is calling you to act with righteousness in your life towards immigrants and others who live on the margins of society. Being an advocate is an everyday challenge to live out peace on earth.

Speak up on behalf of immigrants.
As you go to Christmas parties, be willing to have difficult conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers who speak negatively of immigrants. Here is some advice on how to have these difficult conversations. 

Stay updated throughout the year. 
Email Julia Schmidt, the Immigrant Resource Coordinator at Center for Healing and Hope at jschmidt@chhclinics.org and sign up for the Glimmer of Hope, an email newsletter that comes out every month. The Glimmer of Hope lists events and actions for you to be involved in your community to work on behalf of immigrants, as well as gives highlights on current policies and news about immigration from the local to national and international level. There are so many ways to be involved and spread the message of advent throughout the year!

Devotional written by Julia Schmidt, Immigrant Resource Coordinator at Center for Healing and Hope.