Dr Di Rayson captures our collective weariness and longing as we begin our Advent journey in 2020.
On the second day of Advent, 2020, Will Small reflects on how God’s peace can be found even in wounds, loss, and vulnerability.
And he will be our peace
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace
when the Assyrians invade our land
and march through our fortresses”.
If I scroll through this sequence of verses as if they are an Instagram feed and seek a quick dopamine hit the winning phrase is clearly: ‘And he will be our peace…’
In this anxiety-laced, hustle-sick, pandemic-shaped, modern madness who doesn’t want peace? Sign me up.
But, the next part of the sentence is a little less joyous.
‘…when the Assyrians invade our land…’
When. Not, if.
The reality of invasion.
Like these stolen lands.
Like those innocent ones detained.
Like that spreading disease.
Like our plastic-filled ocean.
Invasion, invasion, invasion.
This peace is not the extinguishing of suffering or an early exit. It is not an Assyrian-proof forcefield. It is an alternate reality, somehow available, even in the middle of invasion.
It reminds me of that other poem where the guy lacks nothing, lays down in green pastures, gets refreshed by quiet waters etc…even though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death?
Or that thing about the meek being blessed or the last being first or the treasure in clay jars or this audacious claim: ‘though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day’ (2 Corinthians 4:16).
There’s a theme here, isn’t there?
The life, the blessing, the peace is found in the wounds, the loss, the vulnerability.
Dizzying paradox everywhere. Yet it makes sense of my reality.
The more I lose my rigid religious tendencies the more I find living water. The more I surrender control, the less I worry about what may come. Every part of me that dies, makes resurrection a possibility.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this satirically ‘unprecedented’ year ended with renewal glamorously rolled out and vaccines readily available for racism and narcissism and greed (oh, and COVID-19).
But that’s not how it happens.
The good news isn’t a fantasy scenario or an escape from this weary world. It’s the presence of God, right where you are. As vulnerable and precious and real as Christ in the cow trough. Where the deep peace is actually located.
Whatever you suffer, grieve, face — these may still press at your sides on Christmas morning and weigh on your shoulders on Boxing Day, and creep in with the first light of New Year's Day.
But, his peace comes even in the midst of the invasion.
‘Though you are small…’, ‘…he will be our peace’.
Though you are weary, there is rest.