This series of Advent devotionals is based on the themes of Advent, continuing with the theme of Peace. For this second week, all of the Bible quotations are taken from the prophets.
Since Advent always begins with a Sunday, this set of devotions can be used any year!
Second Sunday of Advent
With our second week, we will look at what the Bible teaches us about peace. In this passage, we find that everlasting peace flows from our covenants with God. A covenant is like an alliance where two or more come together and agree on things that will be of mutual help. In the beginning of the Bible, covenants show us how the relationship began with God and the people. Here, in the prophets, covenants describe a deepening of that love and connection.
We remember today that peace and healing go hand in hand in scripture. Peace doesn’t just mean safety or a lack of war. It speaks to wholeness, well-being, feeling secure and tranquil. So, the healing that we need is not just an end to violence, but also a disruption of sin. Just as the land needs the rain to be healed and restored, so, too, do we need God’s help to soothe our brokenness. God is our remedy and our deliverance.
Nowadays, when someone calls you a “sheep,” it’s more likely an insult than a compliment about your spiritual life. But in this passage that looks forward to the coming Messiah, the people of God are described as a flock – one people, held together and cared for in God’s strength and in God’s majesty. When we stand as one people under one shepherd, then we know peace – not a peace that comes from the power of a war, but a peace that flows from God’s throne. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that, “peace must be dared.” Part of that daring comes in trusting the shepherd to make a way in uncertainty and to keep the flock together.
This passage talks about the hope for God’s restoration of the people of Israel after their time of exile. Instead of violence, devastation, and destruction, the people will know peace, righteousness, salvation, and praise. Let’s zero in on, “righteousness as your taskmaster.” It would probably be clearer to say that the people will be driven by righteousness or ruled by righteousness. Continuing on our theme of peace as encompassing all of our wholeness, righteousness is a lot more than just being right (or self-righteous!). Righteousness includes justice, moral virtue, honesty, righteous deeds, truthfulness, and vindication. True righteousness undoes violence, injustice, and sorrow as it inspires us to praise God.
We talk a lot about messengers in Advent. After all, “angel” means “messenger of God.” But this passage isn’t talking about divine beings. It’s talking about people of faith: prophets and faithful followers who hope in God’s promises. Speaking peace and making peace are two ways that we can preach the good news wherever we are. Let us marvel at the good news of God’s salvation – whoever the messenger might be!
This passage has a lot of unending words in it: everlasting, continually, endless, forevermore. More than this – it’s talking about perfect peace and perfect justice. So often, our consciousness strains at notions of infinity. How could something truly be unending? We are so used to finding limits and shortcomings because that’s all we’ve ever known in this world. But everything of God breaks through our limitations and partial understandings. God is endless, Christ is endless, the Spirit is endless, and peace will be endless.
This is a great passage to wrap up “Peace” week and lead us into “Joy” week since it features both ideas! The passage starts out by reminding us of God’s power and presence in every day of our lives. God sends not just cold fronts and warm fronts, but also messages and miracles that guide our paths and shape our world. This prophecy was given to the people when they were in exile. It is a promise that they will have celebration and that God will lead them back (home) in peace. But this isn’t just about faithful following – the word used for leading here is more like a procession, a parade! Not only will the people come home to freedom, to joy, to religious liberty, they will also carry on with some pomp and celebration when they go! This leading, this miraculous homecoming is prophesied to be so great that even nature will join in the song and dance! If the holiday season is hard for you, remember the hope of this leading – the peace that God prepares for all of us.