This past week was the second week of Advent. Most churches will have lit the second candle in the Advent wreath. However, depending on which church you attended, the second candle could mean multiple things.
For me, I’m following Max Lucado’s book Because of Bethlehem; Week 2 of Advent is peace.
Peace. In Greek, it is eirene, from which we get the girl’s name Irene. I don’t know of many girls with that name because for some reason it fell out of fashion lately. According to the Social Security Administration, Irene is ranked 637th in 2018! It fell from 462nd place in 200. What a drop.
Perhaps peace is so elusive that we have even given up on naming our daughters Irene.
Maybe because we have trying to attain to what I call “false peace.”
False Peace 1: “Just agree with me.”
We hear this all the time – at work, at home, social media, and yes, even at church. It’s where one party tells the other that we would have harmony if you only did everything I tell you or everything I said. This plays out differently in multiple settings that you can probably think of more than one incident.
This is not peace. It’s control.
False Peace 2: Just Leave Me Alone
Basically, the two parties ignore each other. One goes to one side of the room, put his headphones on, and listen to a podcast. The other goes to the other side of the room and plays Candy Crush on her tablet.
I understand that people need space to do their own things from time to time. But if this happens all the time, if a boy and a girl who claim to be dating does this every night, I question how much of a relationship they really have.
This is not peace either. It’s just isolation and withdrawal.
False Peace 3: Play Today; Keep Shoot Tomorrow.
Christmas in 1914 happened during World War 1. War had broken out in August 1914 and everyone on both sides was confident this was going to a short war. It was not. It lasted until 1918. There would be no formal peace treaty until 1919. But at that time, somehow, both sides realized they ought to stop shooting at least during Christmas Day.
The British and the Germans got out of their trenches. They posed for a picture. They swapped food and smokes, even a few souvenirs. Both sides sang Christmas carols. Because of the broken ground, they tried to play soccer but in the end probably just kicked a few things around in good fun. This lasted informally until the New Year in 1915. And then they started killing each other again: Ypres, Verdun, Somme, Cambrai, Passchendaele, became household names for a while.
The 20th century was one of the bloodiest centuries in human history. World War 1 ended in 1918 with the armistice and Treaty of Versailles. Twenty years later a resurgent German under a madman named Adolf Hitler started it all over with World War 2. Fellow megalomaniacs Stalin, Togo, and Mao joined the fray.
World War 2 became the Cold War. We thought we had a respite when we created the United Nations. We did not.
What then is real peace?
The Hebrew word “Shalom” translates roughly to peace, but it also connotes wholeness and well being. It is not just the absence of strife but a sense of calm in your body, soul, and spirit. I have a Israeli coworker who is based in New York and whenever I see her in LA, I greet her with shalom instead of “hey, long time no see”.
Why? Not just because I’m a nice guy or know the one word in Hebrew that counts, but because I also like that idea of wholeness.
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”Corrie Ten Boom
Isn’t that so true? Apart from Jesus, there is no peace. If you want to live a life on your own terms, that’s fine. You’re just looking for one of three false peaces. Tell me how it feels in a week or two. For me and millions of other Christians, we can attest that when we do turn to God, asking for forgiveness, and then being in fellowship, we experience so much more genuine peace.
This Christmas season, as you count down to Christmas day, there is a strong tendency to get stressed easily. The parking lots are full; the food causes heartburn; you’re trying to find that perfect gift, or you’re rushing to get next party. Stop and take a deep breath. Remember God is the source of true peace.