Awaken to Peace
A homily preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry UMC, December 8, 2019, second Sunday of Advent, “Awaken!” series. L’enfence du Christ performances.
Text: Isaiah 11:1-10
I enjoy relative safety and stability in life. Many within the sound of my voice can say the same. It’s important to consider how easy it is to take this reality for granted. I have been thinking about how easy it is to take for granted that I wake up and go to sleep every night in a sheltered place that is clean and secure and comfortable and private, with running water and hygienic facilities; that there is abundant food in my home and ample resources to get more; that my dogs and cat have their own beds and a cabinet full of food.
When I have needed to move from one place to another, it has been because I chose to pursue a new opportunity. The “challenge” involved in the move was all the time it took to sort through, pack, and unpack all my possessions as I transferred them via automobile from one secure place to the next secure place. I have never been denied a place to live or the means to secure housing because of the color of my skin, the language or accent of my voice, or my gender identity or sexual orientation.
And while we are all finite and vulnerable creatures in a world where accidents happen, illness falls, and violence can erupt anywhere and to anyone, I am among those in this country and world who do not daily fear for my life or the life of my loved ones due to an abusive partner or due to stray bullets or bombs or “disappearances.” I do not have to fear the wolf, the leopard, the lion, the asp who lurk and lie in wait to do harm in the alleys or intersections, who strut and spew poison in marbled halls and paneled courts. I am not the target of those who take away food stamps and deny health coverage and cage children and steal children and allow children to languish in filth and to die alone. I am not among the terrorized and terrified denied shelter and safety at our borders.
I live in peace. And I’m not alone. To be clear, I’m not talking about inner peace. Many of us may struggle with various levels of anxiety and stress—some at truly debilitating levels—and it often gets worse this time of year. What I’m talking about today is the kind of peace that Jesus and his parents did not experience—the kind of peace that is freedom from threat of violence, the freedom to dwell in safety, the freedom to stay in their homeland without fear. I’m talking about the kind of peace that allows parents of any race or class or creed to trust that their children can be who they are, can play in public spaces. without being hurt or destroyed.
The vision cast by the prophet Isaiah in our text today is an ancient hope for the vulnerable in every age. In this vision a way is made for difference to dwell together in peace, for those with certain kinds of power to use that power to care and protect rather than to destroy. Lions and bears and asps and leopards and wolves continue to be who they are but don’t devour the little ones. And in this vision, the power of gentleness and playfulness and innocence and humility is recognized and allowed to lead the way.
Jesus came into the world to show us what that looks like. Jesus is born among the humble animals and, like them, is vulnerable to those whose hungry power would destroy him. Jesus from the very beginning crosses borders and boundaries, in solidarity with refugees everywhere, carried by his parents into unknown lands to try to find a place of sanctuary and safety. The holy family receives shelter and hope for their future from persons who could have turned them away.
In this world, still so far from the vision Isaiah saw, in this world still so plagued with violence, fear, and abuses of power, Jesus comes to awaken us to what is real: You and I live in relative peace. Countless others do not. Peace is denied so many of our human family and yet it is the promise heralded at our savior’s birth. Human actions at home and abroad, actions fueled by greed and fear, are responsible for stealing the peace and safety of God’s children. You and I can’t solve the global migration crisis or end wars in the world or on our streets on our own, but we are called to be peacemakers, to do what we can do. Educate yourselves; you can begin by participating in our Advent Justice Series focused on immigration. Contribute to our Advent Appeal which supports Foundry’s advocacy work for peace and justice and also the work of CARACEN, a local partner in our work with I.D. Ministry clients who are immigrants. Don’t take your peace for granted and do what you can to make peace for those hungering and thirsting for rest, for safety, for home.
By God’s grace and the example of Jesus we can be agents of peaceful change in the world. So be encouraged. May fresh hope and peace now comfort your soul…