Our CEO, Scott Sanders introduces our "Being Present" Advent series with a reflection from Isaiah on what it means to pursue peace during this season.

I’ve been a Christian my entire life, and as such Christmas has always been a spiritually significant event for me. Having grown up in a context where there was a clearly defined place for God in our lives, and being surrounded by Christian traditions and rhythms that invite me to focus more on God during this season, Christmas has always been a time to create space and reflect on God becoming present amongst us through the birth of Christ.

But I’ve realised recently that the way I spiritually approach Christmas is quite similar to the way I decorate for Christmas. We tend to make the mantelpiece the focus of our decorations, clearing space for Christmas lights, cards, stockings and the various other decorations we’ve accrued over the years. So too, I’ve seen Advent as an opportunity to clear a mental mantelpiece and create space to reflect on the meaning and value of God coming amongst us.

But this year, as I journey through Advent, I want the focus of my Christmas not to be on the mantelpiece, but on Jesus’ mantle of peace (pun most-definitely intended).

In Isaiah 9, God speaks to his people of the future birth of a child that will be “a great light” in the darkness (v2), will “break the rod of oppression” (v4), who will be named “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v6). At Christmas we celebrate the birth of this child when God became present amongst us through Jesus, and established a kingdom in which “of peace there will be no end” (v7).

This Prince of Peace spent his first night in a food trough, his birth into our world marked by his exclusion. He went on to establish a ministry of peace that embraced and welcomed the excluded, that was good news to the poor, the burdened, the oppressed. And having secured victory through His resurrection, he passed on the mantle of this ministry to us, His church.

As we approach Christmas, we have an opportunity to carry this mantle into our own actions, to be carriers of peace to those in our society who are excluded and oppressed. While Christmas can be a time of joy for so many, it can also be a time of great exclusion and pain, and it is here in the brokenness that we have an opportunity to be present, as God was present.

Over the next 25 days you’ll hear from a diverse range of Christians reflecting on what is means to be present this Christmas, as God was become present amongst us. As we reflect, I invite you to also ready yourself to respond with the grace and compassion revealed in Jesus to those around you, particularly those who may find Christmas harder than most.

Advent invites us to do more than just clearing space on our mantelpiece to focus on Jesus, this season we are invited to take on Jesus’ mantle of peace in how we engage with those around us.

Scott Sanders is the newly appointed CEO of Common Grace. Image credit: Nita

Daily Reading Isaiah 9:2-7 

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

An Advent series on "Being Present"