The Light of Peace
Dec 04, 2022
Second Sunday of Advent
Text: Isaiah 11:1-10
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
God longs for peace for the world. That is how I began last week’s sermon. This week, that theme continues. Last week there was hope in God’s promise that one day people will learn to make war no more; weapons will be transformed, not just set aside, but become tools to nurture and sustain life. As the prophet said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In the meantime, though, in this time and place, God calls us to walk and live in the light of God’s peace, and in that there also is hope.
Today, peace itself is our focus as hear we again the words of the Prophet Isaiah. I promised last week that I would not beat the context drum too long today, so I’ll just remind you that today’s prophetic words were spoken in mid-8th century BCE. War, destruction and an unknown future surround the prophet’s audience. The Northern Kingdom of Israel has been destroyed; the Southern Kingdom of Judah survives but is controlled by the Assyrians.
Recent kings of the great King David’s line have been ineffective and the Prophet sees a soon-to-arrive day when a descendent of King David will no longer sit on the throne. In fact, the family tree of King David will have been cut down. All will seem lost. BUT, from that dead stump will come a new descendent of David, the Prophet proclaims. There will be life out of desolation.
This King will bear fruit, the fruit of justice and peace for all, which is possible because the Spirit will rest on him, and he will be gifted with qualities that will enable him to inaugurate a rule of justice and peace. This King will possess wisdom and understanding, that is, discernment that leads to making good decisions; counsel and might, which is the ability to advise and to lead; knowledge and the fear of the Lord, which means he knows, worships and honors God.
He will be centered on God; his greatest delight will be his relationship with God. Because of that, he will not rely on what he sees and hears when making judgement but will focus on God’s will and ways as the guide for decisions.
He will offer tender care for “the least and the last” and assure that they are treated with fairness. Did you notice that the word equity, which is different from equality, is used? This king will decide with equity for the meek of the earth.” Equality means providing the same to all, equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place. Therefore, we must acknowledge and make adjustments for imbalances.
This King will speak out against all that is wicked, yet, instead of weapons, he will wear justice and faith. WOW, wouldn’t it be great if our country’s and world’s leaders could be described in that way? At the time this description was given, the Prophet Isaiah may have believed such a King would arrive in his life-time; some scholars say that King Hezekiah was considered to be this King.
For Christians, this passage points to Jesus. Pastor Harold C. Perdue explains, “Is it any wonder that those followers of Jesus of Nazareth, realizing the meaning and the impact of his life, saw Him as that branch? Jesus, that new branch, was one whose total being was filled with wisdom and understanding. He knew how to live in the presence of God. Jesus, that new branch, was one whose total being was filled with counsel and might. He knew how to live before others, in the very power of God. He was able to withstand the force of evil and the powers and destruction of death. Jesus, that new branch, was one whose total being was filled with knowledge and fear of the Lord. He overflowed with a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord of creation.” (1)
Those are such beautiful words and images; but there’s more! Beginning at verse 6, the Prophet changes his point-of-view from a present reality to a vision for the future, for that Day of the Lord when God’s Kingdom will fully come. Then, not only nations, but nature, will be at peace.
Predator and prey, natural enemies, will eat, play and sleep together. Violence and death will be no more; the rules of life will be transformed and will be bent in the direction of gentleness and peace. Then, peace will have fully come. This means, of course, as commentator Scott Hoezee points out, there are going to have to be changes on the inside, at the fundamental level of the hearts of all the creatures involved.
Let me quote him: “The lamb needs to be able to go to sleep secure in the knowledge that the lion has lost his appetite for anything served with a side of mint jelly. The parents of the toddler playing by the snake’s lair need to know not just that the snake is behaving itself so long as someone is there to keep an eye on it, but that things have changed at so basic a level that there really is nothing to worry about whether anyone is watching or not.” (2)
Only in God’s Kingdom can that be a reality, but we can apply its principles now. To walk in the light of God’s peace, that light must infuse our hearts. We can then live with righteousness and justice, so that the poor, the needy, the weak, the excluded and those suffering due to violence and war can count on us. Through us, the light of peace can brighten our world even before the light of Christ comes again.
In order to remind us of that, we are participating in a program that for decades has promoted global peace and harmony through the sharing of the Peace Light. It is supported by Scouting and Girl Scouts, which is one way the light is spread in Advent. For more than 1000 years, oil lamps have continuously burned at the grotto of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In recent days, a flame from that flame was retrieved by a child from Austria, which is where this mission began, and the light was shared with Scouting delegations from across Europe, who then returned to their own countries with a message of peace and to share the light.
Many hands helped it cross continents and oceans; it arrived in New York this past week and has been shared by hundreds of Scouts, Girl Scouts and others until it reached Stow on Saturday. It has come to us today via David Weida, who told me about this symbol of peace and, for us, of the light of Christ. This light from Bethlehem, like the light of the Bethlehem star, reflects the peace for which we long and that God longs for us to have.
Let us pray. We give thanks, Prince of Peace, for this light of peace. On this second Sunday of Advent, may it be a powerful reminder that you are the light that shatters the darkness of our world. When we see this light, stir in us a desire for peace, harmony and unity in our lives, our communities, our country and our world. With thanks for the promise of peace we pray. AMEN
(Following today’s second service, this light will be on the altar; please feel free to take a moment to observe it’s flame and pray for peace. You are welcome to take a flame from it home, but please bring a means with you to safely do so and be careful not to extinguish its light.)
“Advent: The Return to Paradise”, Isaiah 11:1-10 by Harold C. Perdue, www.preaching.com
“Sermon Commentary on Isaiah 11:1-10” by Scott Hoezee, Dec. 4, 2022, www.cepreaching.org