Skip to main content

Advent Peace

In April 2002, an article about the situation in Afghanistan appeared in Time magazine. The author of that article wrote that…

One [arms] dealer tried to interest a Time reporter in a Kalashnikov for the bargain price of $200, with 100 rounds thrown in “to close the sale.” The man, who identified himself only as Abdul, said he wouldn’t need his weapons anymore. “Peace has come to Afghanistan,” he says. “The King is coming home, and people are sick of fighting.”[1]

Fifteen years later, has peace come to Afghanistan? It is very doubtful.

The need for peace in Afghanistan is probably just as great today as it was fifteen years ago. Furthermore, though our country is at least a little more stable, the need for inner, spiritual peace is just as great among Americans as among any other group of people in the world.

Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love are the four traditional themes of Advent that the Church of Jesus Christ has celebrated and preached for hundreds of years. We are going to consider these four themes from the prophet Isaiah over the next four Sundays. Today, we focus on peace from Isaiah 2:1-5. Allow me to read again the words we heard earlier in our service, this time, in context. Listen for God’s Word to you….

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.

Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

I invite you to focus with me on one phrase from this passage: “Swords into Plowshares”.

Notice that the beating of the swords into plowshares, the conversion of weaponry into “livingry”, follows the judgment. From a Christian perspective, we believe that real and everlasting peace will only come to this tired and sorry world of ours only when Christ returns for the final judgment to establish his everlasting kingdom on a renewed earth. This text is an Advent text in that it looks forward to the Second Coming of Christ, as well as, from Isaiah’s perspective, the first coming.

As we are all, no doubt, aware, there is a problem with the kind of peace this world achieves. It always passes.

One of the most striking illustrations of this comes from the First World War. One cold, moonlit, Christmas Eve, the soldiers on both sides of the conflict huddled in the trenches. Because of the annual Christmas truce, the fighting had stopped. Suddenly, from the British trenches, a loud, sweet tenor voice began to sing “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” and the sound floated up into the clear, moonlit air.

Then from the German trenches, a rich baritone voice tuned in, singing the same song in German. For a few moments, everyone in both trenches concentrated on the sound of these two invisible singers and the beautiful music and the harmony. The British soldier and the German soldier sang praise to the Lord who was their shepherd. The singing stopped, and the sound slowly died away.

All the soldiers, on both sides, huddled in the bottom of their respective trenches, trying to keep warm until Christmas Day dawned. Then, early on Christmas morning, some of the British soldiers climbed out of their trenches into No Man’s Land, carrying a football (what we Americans would call a soccer ball). These English soldiers started kicking around the football, in a pickup game in No Man’s Land, between the trenches.

Then some of the German soldiers climbed out of their trench, and England played Germany at football in No Man’s Land, on Christmas Day, in the middle of the battlefield in France in the First World War. England won the game, by the way.

Then, the next morning, the carnage began again, with machine guns and bayonet fighting. Everything was back to “normal”.[2]

That is the way of this world. However, the vision of Isaiah tells us that one day the song about the Lord who is our Shepherd, and the game, and the peace will be real and lasting.

Does that mean we do not need to work for peace now, that we can just wait for the Lord to bring it about in his own good timing? No, I do not believe so. I believe the Lord will bring about that final, everlasting peace through us. It is something we need to begin working toward even now in this war-torn world of ours.

That is why Isaiah adds, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

As N. T. Wright has written,

Isaiah’s promise of universal peace must therefore be read, like Paul’s call to personal holiness, as our present agenda. We must neither look helplessly at a dark and sleeping world, nor think complacently that we, the church, are all right as we are. We must wake people up to the fact that the sun is already shining, and that the judge of the nations is at the door, longing to see his justice and peace enfold the world in a single embrace.[3]

The great nineteenth century London preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, has some wonderful commentary on this verse. He says this about the light of the Lord….

No other light is comparable to it…. No other walking is so safe, so gladsome…. In this light, we find certainty for the mind…. In this light, we find rest for the conscience…. In this light, we find direction for the judgment…. In this light, we find delight for the soul…. In this light, we find communion for the heart.

Then Spurgeon tells this lovely story….

A weary and discouraged woman, after struggling all day with contrary winds and tides, came to her home, and flinging herself into a chair, said: “Everything looks dark, dark.”

“Why don’t you turn your face to the light, aunty dear?” said a little niece who was standing near.

The words were a message from on high, and the weary eyes were turned toward him who is the Light and the Life of men, and in whose light alone we see light.

[1] Simon Robinson, “Today’s a Great Day to Buy a Used AK,” (4-9-02), (accessed 4-17-02); submitted by Lee Eclov, Lake Forest, Illinois
[2] Stuart Briscoe, “Christmas 365 Days a Year,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 135.
[3] N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year A, London: SPCK, 2001, p. 3.


Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity

Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.

Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....

Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....

C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday ( got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…

The Shepherds' Perspective on Christmas

On December 21, 2015, the following headline appeared in the International Business Times: “Bethlehem Christmas 2015 Cancelled”. To be fully accurate, religious celebrations of Jesus’ birth went forward last year in Bethlehem, but many of the secular celebrations of Christmas that usually surround it were toned down due to instability in the area. Looking back a decade, there was even one year when Christian Arabs canceled community celebrations of Christmas in support of the Palestinian uprising. However, the Jewish government would have no part of that, so the Israeli military sponsored its own holiday celebrations in the area.
It is also interesting to note who celebrated the first Christmas and who didn’t. The first Christmas was not celebrated by the emperor Caesar Augustus, nor Quirinius, the governor of Syria, nor was it celebrated by the lowly innkeeper. But Christmas was celebrated by a few lonely shepherds along with Joseph and Mary and the angels of heaven.
How amazing that t…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…