By Rev. Julia L. Styles
Lectionary reading for 11/27/2022: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
Selected passage for reflection: Isaiah 2:4-5
Isaiah 2:4-5 New Living Translation
4 The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord
I yearn for the day of peace that Isaiah envisioned in today’s scripture reading, where weapons are turned into gardening tools, and countries are no longer at war.
It seems almost impossible to live in a world free of violence. In 2022, Russia and Ukraine are engaged in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people on each side. Myanmar is fighting a civil war that has already taken 10,000 lives. Civil wars, drug wars and terrorist insurgencies plague 29 countries, ending the lives of tens of thousands of people combined. In the United States, where more than 37,000 people have died of gun violence this year, many of us continue our days as normal, without knowing about or mourning the loss of so many people. Lord, have mercy.
In today’s passage, we are called to walk in the light of the Lord, but what can we do when the problem of violence looms so large?
It is tempting to fall into despair or complacency. As we look at history, it would be easy to throw up our hands in defeat. The advent of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, did not bring the political peace his contemporaries longed for. The proliferation of Christianity, democracy and capitalism have not brought the peace that our ancestors anticipated. Even the presence of churches in our neighborhoods has not stopped the gun violence that plague our streets. What more can I, a single person, do to bring light into the darkness?
For hundreds of years, the season of Advent has been a sacred time to bring the church together to acknowledge the darkness of the world and anticipate the light of Christ. In other words, Advent is the time of year that we practice hope, as a community.
What does it mean to practice hope? I am not referring to a wishful hope, where we sit passively waiting for God to return and make everything right. I am encouraging us to practice an active hope, where we live into the future that Isaiah envisioned and Jesus promised. When we live with hope, each action we take towards peace becomes part of the larger work of God’s Shalom here on Earth.
What are some examples of living into the hope we profess as Christ followers, especially with regards to a more peaceful and less violent world?
RAWtools, an organization that turns guns into gardening tools and teaches communities how to face fear and conflict without violence.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a network of over 10 million mayors, moms, teachers, survivors, gun owners, students, and everyday Americans who have come together to make their own communities safer by advocating for common sense gun legislation.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), founded by Christian pacifists over a century ago to advocate for nonviolent conflict resolution, and dismantle systems that foster fear and hatred.
On an individual level, try practicing mindfulness so that you learn to respond to a situation with empathy and compassion rather than reacting out of anger or fear. Two Christian practices that foster mindfulness are Centering Prayer and Welcoming Prayer.
As a response to Isaiah’s call to “walk in the light of the Lord,” consider where God might be leading you to actively practice hope. Research and consider getting involved with an organization like those listed above and sharing with others how we can actively join with God to bring light to dark spaces.
God, we thank you for Advent, for an opportunity to join together in spirit with other saints around the world and throughout the centuries to acknowledge our need for a savior, and our need for hope in dark times. Help us to walk in the light of the Lord today and every day.
In the words of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
About the Author
Rev. Julia L. Styles is a Spiritual Director and ordained minister. She is passionate about women in ministry and believes the church needs to hear their voices—in the pulpit, on the page, in the classroom, and in positions of leadership both within and outside the church. To contact Julia for a free spiritual direction session visit www.spiritualdirectionwithjulia.com.
Julia resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Derek and two littles, Jakob and Zoe.