Advent: PEACE

David Ross, Dec 05, 2021, 3:09 AM
David Ross Prairies and North Pastor
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Second Sunday of Advent: Peace

One of the texts from the Revised Common Lectionary for the second Sunday of Advent is Philippians 1:3-11. Philippians is often described as a letter of friendship, because Paul is writing to his close friends in Philippi. In the midst of his constant prayers for his Philippian brothers and sisters Paul says that he is "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (verse 6, NIV).

This second Sunday of Advent feels like a particularly helpful time for me to reflect on the peace brought to us by Jesus Christ. I have just recently emerged from an extended season of full-time education. Throughout the entirety of that season, I felt a keen and irrational lack of peace regarding one particular thing. All students are of course concerned about what will happen once they complete their studies. For some reason I carried in my heart the irrational fear that after I finished my studies, I would end up in a job that was deeply unfulfilling. This was a significant fear for me given that my personality revolves around finding meaning and purpose in life. I was desperately afraid that all my hopes, sense of calling and preparation would ultimately flop and that I would be stuck in a job that, rather than giving me life, would such it out of me. My wife Claire consistently reassured me that everything would turn out okay in the end (pro tip – listen to your spouse). My present reality, four months removed from the end of my studies, is that I now have more opportunity to do meaningful work than I ever imagined I would have access to. I am at the point now of having to say no to good things to make sure I don't overwhelm myself. The question I have for us on this second Sunday of Advent then is this – in what ways are we living in an unnecessary lack of peace? All those years of worrying about the future now look pretty foolish in the face not of my own ability to provide for myself or figure my life out, but in the face of God's unshakable faithfulness and commitment to his people. When Paul wrote that he was "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus", he was confident that God is a God who finishes what he starts. God sends us out on mission, and he doesn't then leave us hanging.

Martin Luther, the great reformer, spoke of "alien righteousness", which he described as "the righteousness of another", which is "instilled from without." Luther's defining struggle was to find in the pages of Scripture a merciful God who would turn away his wrath from the sin which Luther felt so keenly within himself. It was from this personal struggle that Luther's theological breakthrough came – God makes his people right with him by giving them Christ's own righteousness by his grace through faith. Luther found comfort from his overwhelming anxiety in the idea that he had been given a righteousness that came to him from the outside and which therefore did not depend on his own works. This is what he meant by an "alien righteousness" – Luther's acceptance with God depended wholly and entirely on God, and not on himself and thus, he could find peace. I wonder if this Advent, those of us who are struggling to find peace as I was throughout my schooling, might be able to find what we could call an 'alien peace'. A peace which does not depend on our own abilities or virtuousness, but on God's unshakable faithfulness, grace and goodness alone. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:27-29, NIV).