Advented Peace

What does it (or would it) look like for you to have true, deep, sustainable REST? I don’t mean the “Wow, that was a good night’s sleep” kind of rest, or the “I don’t have any drama in my life right now” (as if that was ever possible) kind of rest. I mean the kind of rest that is a deep contentment of inner peace where my heart is not troubled, I’m not afraid of what is around the corner, nor am I haunted by the past (of what I and others have done). Now, before I move on, I struggle to know how sustainable this True Peace is this side of heaven, but I do know that it’s possible and even offered through the Holy Spirit right here in our current world, even in the midst of the barrage of artillery coming your way. So let’s look into it together, praying that the incomprehensible Peace of God can be a reality in my everyday life.

Isaiah 57:19b
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.

As we’ve seen over and over, Isaiah loves to repeat himself. He doubles up words (and once, in Isaiah 6, triples up the word “holy”) in order to put serious emphasis on it. It’s like when a teenager says “I don’t just like you, I “like like” you.” In Isaiah 57 we are told that, while we are drowning in an ocean of idolatry and rebellion (expressed in our works and our “righteousness” (i.e. legalism)), God leans down to pick us up and give us rest from our flailing legs as we helplessly and fatally tread the water of fear and anxiety. The “peace peace” that God offers is not the singular peace the world offers. It isn’t “just relax” or “stop worrying” coping techniques. It’s something literally miraculous (God breaking into our world) and personally designed for you in your exact situation (not a general platitude).

This all sounds fantastic, and I really need it. Now. The way God has made this miraculous PeacePeace possible is in calling and empowering me to hold on the Past Advent and Future Advent (some of these “future advent” thoughts springs out of John Piper’s book “Future Grace“).

To be able to hold onto peace today, I have to stand on the truth that God has personally “advented” himself historically in the birth of Christ in order to rescue us and has perpetually advented himself throughout history in the person of the Holy Spirit; this Spirit has advented himself into my heart, life and situations continually throughout my life, and that he will perpectually, now and forever, intervene in my life not just yesterday, but this afternoon, tomorrow, next year, next season, next forever. And that Jesus will one day Ultimately Advent again in the second coming. I can hold onto the Person of Peace not because problems will stop (they won’t this side of heaven) but because The Problem (sin, fear and death) have been crucified with Christ, who now reigns as our Sovereign King as he advents his Kingdom into our hearts and world even right now. And it is actually HIM that is holding onto me, setting me free from the death-grip I think I have to conjure up heart-peace.

Let’s do an exercise that leads us toward God’s Advented (and Adventing) Peace.

I would encourage you to read Psalm 85 four times in the Lectio Divina style. Something like this (with a prayer-break in between each reading):

  1. Read Simply: Notice the big picture and flow of the passage.
  2. Read Meditatively: What words draw your attention; why this word at this time?
  3. Read Prayerfully: Dialogue with the Author of the passage; speak and listen.
  4. Read Thoughtfully: What does the Holy Spirit have for you in this passage today?

The Lord, in his creativity and personal attention to us individually, will draw out different beauties and applications for each of us. For me personally I was struck with the intimacy of God’s character traits, specifically in verse 10 & 11:

10 Steadfast Love (“Hesed”) and faithfulness meet;
Righteousness and Peace kiss each other.

11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.

Each of God’s character facets intimately interact with and draw out one another. His unending and unbreakable love is made sure and strong through his eternal faithfulness, which tells us that God doesn’t even have the ability to break his promise of love. Likewise, the Lords’ righteousness, his beautiful holiness, is so sure and eternal, and, as we know on this side of the cross, has been given to us through the Advent (the “arrival”), crucifixion and resurrection of the Jesus Christ:

Philippians 3:9
…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

In my anxiety and churning stomach I can rest in the assurance that, despite the lies my heart hears, I have been made “right” with the Lord, and he finds incredible pleasure in being my Father, my Daddy. That when my world spins I am being held and God has not lost any degree of his love or control. Though all doesn’t feel right, all IS right. “It is well with my soul.”

Ephesians 2:13-14
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…

Finally, to bring it all home, when I am looking for peace, I think I am looking for a resolution to a problem or the removal of a brutal feeling; I think I am looking for a state of being, of rest. These things are partially correct, but actually way too small. What I am actually desperately longing for isn’t being at rest, but being WITH the Man of Rest…the Prince of Peace; what I am actually looking for is Jesus himself, not just what Jesus will give me. To be sure he can and will give me a state of peace, but only as he gives me HIMSELF. When my world flips and my heart breaks, I am called primarily to the Person of Christ, not just to feel better. If I search for the feeling, I will get neither; if I cling to Jesus as he clings to me, I get both.


Advent: The Great Anticipation; The Great Arrival.

In your world, what are you desperately waiting on? The arrival of who, or what

What has you on the edge of your seat, burning a hole in your calendar?

Another way to put it…in what/who are you putting your hope?

What future thing is going to bring you what you need? To cure your loneliness, boredom, anger, fear, shame, guilt? We all stand on a foundation of hope:

  • Hoping I have enough to pay my bills
  • Hoping I’ll find love (or that I won’t lose the love I have)
  • Hoping my medical report turns out ok
  • Hoping I don’t get found out as the fraud I am
  • Hoping my kids turn out ok
  • Hoping my theology and morality is “good enough”

We are constantly immersed in some kind of hope, and very little of it (if any) is actually under our control (which causes fear, but more on that next week).

2000 years ago there was an impossible anticipation for the coming Messiah, but all logic told them that it wasn’t going to happen. There had been a few hundred years of (seeming) Divine Silence. By all human accounts, God had chopped down all the trees of hope and promise, leaving a lifeless clear-cut forest; leaving us alone and on our own. We see this in Isaiah 9 as God warned His people of their impending exile into slavery.

Isaiah 9:14
So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,
palm branch and reed in one day—

For them, and for us, all signs pointed to justified abandonment by God. BUT…what about God’s promises? Would he, could he, be true to his word to never forsake us? To come rescue us? Even when we’ve gone way too far. When we’ve abandoned him? Abandoned each other? Abandoned our own dignity and value?

Into this desperation comes Isaiah 11

Isaiah 11:1-3
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

The stump of Jesse: King David’s father. The family tree of God’s promises had been cut down and lay rotting on the ground. Dead. Hopeless.

And then…a sprout. Life. Hope. And not just hope, but a branch that would produce fruit…MORE life. God created a way where there was no way.

This is The Immanuel. The rightful perfect Branch that not only came from the cut down trunk, but (as we see in 10) is also the ROOT of the tree itself. Jesus is the Great I AM; present and instrumental in creation; present and intimate right here and right now; present and sovereign in what is to come. It isn’t that Jesus simply brings us hope, Jesus IS our hope.

And so now, during this Advent Season, we begin the seemingly impossible task of dislodging our chaotic minds and hearts from lesser hopes in this world — hopes that are real and very often very important, for which we are called to pray and pursue — and then to be lodged into the The Greater Hope of Christ. Dislodged from merely hoping for better circumstances and securely hoping for the Savior that has already come into our darkness, lived among us as the “God With Us” and died in order to crucify the hopelessness of Sin, Fear and Death, only to miraculously resurrect (another impossibility that the Lord overcame) and thereby BE our Hope.

So, what does that even mean? When I feel alone, shattered, afraid, hopeless — there is One that holds all the power that is lovingly present with me right here and right now. All of life will eventually fail me — financial, relational, medical, moral — every other thing in which I hope will crumble, but not Jesus. He’s already been crumbled on the cross, and now stands alongside the Father in power, and has send His Spirit as the presence of God in and with me now. I cannot be alone; I cannot be abandoned; I cannot be lost or overcome. My hope is in Him and in His hands, so even when I let it go in search for other hopes, he doesn’t let me go. He has overcome, and is, will, bring me with him. Starting here. Now. Forever.

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.