Peace is at once the simplest and the most profound of the four Advent candles, and it is for me, at least this year, the hardest to understand.
When I think of hope, I remind myself that the brokenness of this life isn’t the final picture – that there is a coming restoration and redemption of all things.
When I think of light, I picture truth and wisdom coming into the ignorance, confusion, and error of our culture.
When I think of joy, I remember that the goodness and grace of God in this world means that there is always something to rejoice about, and it lifts me out of my worry or sorrow.
But peace is so multifaceted, so intricate, so all-encompassing, that I struggle to grasp it. I know it is more than just the cessation of war promised in Isaiah, though that in itself is almost beyond imagining:
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and 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 the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and 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 anymore.
I also know that it is more than just the personal peace promised in Philippians, though freedom from worry and fear is almost unthinkable in this life as well:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
My general feeling is that “peace” approximates the overall abundance, beauty, and well-being that will be when Christ returns at the second coming, and because of that it’s not something I’m ever going to be able to imagine completely. All I can do is remember that it is coming – that all things will be made whole and healed, from the despair of a broken heart, to the snapped cords of friendship and lost love, to the diplomatic relations between nations and ethnicities.