Week 2: Peace

Christ came to bring peace

on earth and goodwill to all.


Just as the ancient Israelites longed for the coming of the Messiah, who would put all things right, Christians long for the return of Christ our King—the one who will come again in glory. Although Christ’s return is a day of promise, it is also a day of judgment (Rom. 14: 10–12; 2 Tim. 4: 1). As we eagerly anticipate the Second Advent, we pause to consider our readiness for Christ’s coming and our need to repent of anything that keeps us from being at peace with God.

 

Scripture

Psalm 8:1-2, 8-13

Isaiah 40:1-11

2 Peter 3:8-15

Matthew 3:1-12

 

Questions for Reflection

1. The Scripture selections hold in tension several realities about the coming of Christ:

He will come as both a sovereign Lord and a gentle Shepherd (Isa. 40: 10–11).He will come to destroy and to build. He will destroy the heavens and the earth, subjecting everything and everyone to judgment; and he will create a new heaven and earth, where righteousness reigns (2 Peter 3: 10, 13).

 

He will come to separate and to gather. Just as a farmer sorts wheat from chaff at the harvest, Christ will winnow his harvest, burning the chaff with fire and gathering his wheat into the barn (Matt. 3: 12).

 

His reign will be marked by unfailing love and unflinching truth (Ps. 85: 10).

• What is your initial response to these pairings that might be considered opposites? Which of these tensions seems hardest to reconcile?

• Of these descriptions which make the most sense to you?

• In what ways have you recently experienced these dual realities in your relationship with Christ? For example, how has Christ been both your sovereign Lord and your gentle Shepherd? How has an experience of judgment (or conviction) also been an experience of renewal? How has unflinching truth also reassured you of his unfailing love?

• How do these divine principles affect your understanding of ways to prepare yourself during this Advent season for Christ’s coming?

 

2. The psalmist wrote, “I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people.” And then he gave this warning: “But let them not return to their foolish ways” (Ps. 85: 8 NLT).

• For the psalmist, experiencing peace required listening carefully to what God was saying. Briefly identify the situations or relationships in which you most need peace. What makes it difficult for you to listen carefully to what God might be saying to you in these areas?

• Peace is also intimately connected to righteousness (Ps. 85: 10), faithfulness (Ps. 85: 11), and a refusal to fall back into foolish ways (Ps. 85: 8). How do these anchors for peace help you experience or better understand God’s peace in your life?

 

3. Pastor Josh told a story about Max Lucado that describes an encounter with a pair of teenage boys that got the better of him. In reflecting on the cause of his uncharacteristic behavior, he writes:

I’d like to blame my behavior on my state of mind, the stress of the traffic, the driver who nearly hit my car, or the passenger who pushed my buttons. But I can blame my bizarre behavior on only one thing. The punk inside me. For a few minutes at a stoplight near a shopping mall, I forgot who I was. And I forgot who the teenager was. In that heated moment he wasn’t someone’s son. He wasn’t a creation of God. . . . He was a disrespectful jerk, and I let him bring out the disrespectful jerk in me.

 

• Think of a recent experience in which you realized, That just wasn’t me or I just wasn’t myself.

• On what did you want to blame your behavior?

• What did you “forget” about yourself and others?

4. Under the right circumstances you will do the wrong thing. You don't want to. You'll try not to, but you will. Why? You have a sin nature.

• What are your "right circumstances," the conditions in which you are prone to do the wrong thing?

• What three words or phrases best describe you when you are under stress on in your "right circumstances"? How do these characteristics differ from the person you believe you really are, or the person you want to be?

• "Jesus not only did a work for us, he does a work within us." In other words, Jesus not only saves us; he wants to change us. Do you tend to focus more on the fact that Jesus saved you, or the fact that he wants to change you? Why?

5. A central task of Advent, and the Christian life as a whole, is to pursue peace with God--to live today with our eternal tomorrow always in mind. The apostle Peter wrote:

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people are you be? You aren't to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it's coming... Since you are looking forward to this make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." (2 Peter 3:11-12, 14)

We are often caught up in the busyness of doing. Time is short, and our to do list are long, especially during the holidays. But the invitation of this passage is the focus instead of being--specifically, being the kind of people we are to be.

• How might it change your experience of advent this year if you were to make your priority being--the person you want to become--instead of doing?

• when you allow yourself to "look forward to the day of God," what thoughts stir in you? What hopes does it Kindle for the kind of person you most want to be?

 

Advent prayer

Come, Lord Jesus. You are my peace.

 

Advent practice

Consider using one or more of the following options to help you practice and experience peace this week.

• Make a being or a to-be list, and keep it with your to-do list. Re-read 2 Peter 3:11–14. On the pad of paper or electronic device you typically use to create your daily or weekly to-do list, write down a few phrases or statements that describe the person you hoped to be. For example, I want to be a peacemaker in my relationships, I want to be a loving presence, or I want to be someone who prioritizes people over projects. Refer to your to-be list every time you refer to your to-do list--at least once a day--as a way to focus on being at peace with God.

• Set aside a specific time in your calendar this week for self-reflection and confession. In God's loving presence consider the areas where you lack peace with God. It might be habits of thought or behavior, relationships, or circumstances. With specificity acknowledge your guilt--what you have done wrong or left undone. Express your regret and sorrow, asking for God's strength to make things right, to apologize, or to make restitution where appropriate and keep you from repeating these failures in the future. Receive God's forgiveness and thank him for giving you his peace.

• Do a peace review each day. Just as coaches and athletes sometimes watch game-day videos so they can analyze and improve their skills, imagine you and Jesus are watching a video replay of the previous day. As you reflect on your morning, afternoon, and evening, consider two questions: In what ways did I experience peace with God and others? In what ways did I fail to experience peace with God and others? Use a pad of paper or a journal to note your observations. Prayerfully invite Jesus to coach you on how to pursue and experience greater peace with God and others in the day ahead.

 

Advent Hymn

O COME, O COME, EMMANUEl

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice, Rejoice

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,

Who orderest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, thou Day-spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Key of David, come,

And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height

In ancient times once gave the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse's tree,

An ensign of Thy people be;

Before Thee rulers silent fall;

All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to the, O Israel

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid thou or sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

 

Lyrics: Tradition Hymn,  Translated by John M. Neale, 1851

For a son is born to us, a son is given to us....And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NLT

 

Therefore, since we have been made right in gods sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.... And we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory.

Romans 5:1-2 NLT

 

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9 NLT

 

Then Jesus said to her, "your sins are forgiven....go in peace."

Luke 7:48, 50

 

Peace [is] the rest of will that results from assurance about how things will turn out.

Dallas Willard, "Willard Words," dwillard.org

 

It is he who made us and not we ourselves, made us out of his peace to live in peace, out of his light to dwell in light, out of his love to be above all things loved and loving.

Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark

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