Advent is the season of arrival; the anticipation of the coming of God. We count down on the Advent Wreath each Sunday as we light another candle and move closer to Christmas, to the great arrival of God all those years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. We celebrate the fact that our God is not a God who stays far off, is only a dream or an empty promise. No, our God is a God who comes. He advents with His people. He arrives and His arrival changes things. But He does not only arrive in the past, He has also promised to arrive again, to come in glory and power, to bring this age to an end and usher in the new Heavens and new Earth. And there is more. Our God advents with His people even now. He comes into our midst and arrives in Word and Sacrament to do His work here and now. Our present day is full of meaning and hope because He still comes to His people.
Yet, the here and now, amid Advent Wreaths and Christmas trees, our present day is marked by struggle, difficulty, confusion and doubt. We may be full of great anticipation, but this anticipation is punctuated by a lack of security, comfort and peace in our world. When the angels announced the advent of Christ to the shepherds, they said, “Peace on earth.” But peace seems to be in short supply. We long for it, pray for it, support political parties and candidates who promise it, but peace remains elusive. There remains wars and rumors of war. There are terror attacks and brutal civil conflicts around the world. There is injustice and tyranny and oppression on a grand scale. We cry out, “Peace,” but there is no peace.
If we are honest, we know there is a longing for peace which is much closer to home. Sure, we want world peace, so we can travel, among other things, without fear and uncertainty. But what about the desire for peace in our homes and peace in our relationships with the ones we love. Why is there jealousy, distrust, hurt and pain in these relationships? Why can there not just be peace? Even more, why do we find it so difficult to find peace within ourselves? Why is there anxiety and depression? Why do we so often find us sabotaging our own self-interests? Why is there a war within, between what we want and what we do, between our passion and our fears? How come most people find there is a tear within their own being? When we long for the coming of Christ it is not just because we want healing in the land, not just a desire for peace on earth, but we desperately long for healing between one another and especially within our own hearts and minds. That peace would change everything.
Today, we hear the prophet Isaiah speaking of such peace, real peace. He speaks of the Mountain of God being lifted above all others. All the nations of the world will be drawn to it. It will be the source of hope and strength for all, a beacon everyone can see. The Word of God flows out of this Mountain of the Lord and the effect of His Word is incredible. A God who arrives in the midst of His people, acts as the judge and settles disputes. The Word begins to mend disagreements, promote harmony and build unity. The nations begin to, “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). The image promised is one of true peace, final lasting peace. If the advent of God upon the Mountain can bring peace to the nations, surely it can bring peace to you, to your home, to your relationships and to your own souls.
Then the great advent of God begins to unfold, and we start to get a little worried as things do not play out the way we imagined them. God comes and He comes to bring peace, but the peace does not start with the nations, it does not look like an end to all the war and strife in this world. In fact, it does not even begin in our homes or within our own personal trials. The Mountain of the Lord which is lifted-up is not the capital mountain, it is not the seat of power and authority, and it is not the place we would expect the nations to find peace and justice. The Mountain of the Lord is not the temple mount either. It is not the place of worship and sacrifice, the sacred space of God’s chosen people. In fact, the mountain which is lifted-up is outside the walls of the city and it is not all that big of a mountain, more of a small hill. A filthy spot, really. Littered with the aftermath of destruction and disgrace, it is called, “The place of the skull,” and it is where your Lord was crucified.
This is the place all nations are drawn toward. It is the focal point of the working of God, the source of peace and hope. The peace which begins here is not what we expected. It has little to do with political, social or even psychological division. This peace, the peace that comes in our Lord Jesus Christ, is peace with God Himself, peace with the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and peace surpassing all understanding.
The advent of peace in your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ begins with His work of reconciling you to your Father in Heaven. He comes to do what you could not do. He advents to live the perfect life, to be obedient to the Law, faithful to the end, and to die for sins not His own. Because of His work He turns an angry tyrant and judge into a loving Father who will not abandon or forsake His children. He takes all the wrath of God upon His own flesh so He might present you as pure and holy children worthy of eternal life and all the blessings of the Father. The mountain of your peace is marked by a cross and an empty tomb and is where your hope and strength come from.
The advent of Christ is the beginning of the end, it is the first fruits of all God is ready to give you. Peace begins with Him, peace between rebellious creatures and their Creator. Then His peace will spread, it will be felt in your own life and you will experience it in your own hearts and minds as His gifts continue to pour out upon you. Sure, it is not a perfect peace in our relationships with each other, or even perfect peace in the war between our own flesh and faith. But there are moments when we see it working, when we dare to love as we have been loved, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to trust His Word, His promise, and His work.
As you have been given peace with God, you now live in the promise of the fulfillment of all His gifts of peace. This is a true and lasting peace which will define all the world in the age to come. It is a perfect peace where there will be no more need for swords or spears, no more tears, and no more suffering or division. The promise of complete and total peace is yours in Christ. His peace has already begun and, together, we will rejoice in its completion. We will celebrate its full advent as one people. Come, Lord Jesus, come.