Coming from the Midwest, one of my favorite winter sights is the vision of the trees and ground coated in untouched new-fallen snow. Despite the hassles that snow can bring, I still feel moved to peace and tranquility that a snowfall brings. As corny as this sounds, I think of the symbolism of snowflakes in this holy season: they remind of what religious writers describe: That the exquisite uniqueness of each snowflake -- so intricate and small -- reminds us that Christ sees the individuality of each and every person. God calls every creature each by our own name. Does not the prophet say, “Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name.” As snowflakes blanket the world in white the scriptures again declare that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
Today is the Advent Sunday of peace. Our readings this morning lead us further to images of creation to give us another under-utilized image of peace: the peace and comfort discovered as every mountain and hill is brought low. The peace of every valley filled. The peace of every crooked path made straight.
These mountains and valleys exist in our hearts. The mountains and valleys exist in the collective heart of humanity. Each of us has a life of highs and lows. Each of us know the gulf created by mountains of sin. We also know the valleys of depression and defeat. Furthermore, we find ourselves in a huge global gap between human predators of all stripes and shapes and the preyed-upon. Between the higher-ups and the lower downs. The haves and have nots. The hawks and the doves. The self-styled strong and the weak and heavy burdened.
Consider just this one gap between mountains and valleys in our world:
The top three wealthiest people control the combined wealth of more than half the U.S. population. That’s three people own more than 160 million.
The richest 80 persons on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people.
Now wealth in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The issue is that the extent of one’s wealth should not condemn others to homelessness, illness, and suffering. Advent reminds us there cannot be peace when humanity allows a minority in live lavishly on the mountains and the majority are consigned to valleys of woe. The prophets Isaiah and John call us to the holy task of peace, peace in our hearts from following the ways of God, peace in our world as an extension of peace as an interplay of our interior life to our communal exterior life. Mary the mother-prophet of Jesus, sings in her great song that proclaims the holy leveling of God in Christ: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly (Luke 1:52).”
Peace is the spiritual tool to bring down those mountains. To raise up the valleys. To straighten what’s been made crooked in our hearts, in our world. This of how peace permeates our Christian life.
When we say, “Peace be with you” in the passing of the peace, aren’t we actually saying, “May you live well!” When the carol extols us to “sleep in heavenly peace” don’t we pray for respite that has conquered the mountains of worry or strife? When we wish for the “Peace on earth” that the Christmas angels proclaim, don’t we confess a world free of conflict and war?
Wait, there is more. Don’t the scriptures teach us that this is just the tip of the iceberg? Peace envisions a better world for everyone. We recall that the Hebrew root of peace means "to be complete" or "to be sound." Peace proclaims that it is God’s desire that all people get to live in a state of wholeness, health, safety, tranquility, prosperity, rest, harmony; free from agitation or discord, a state of calm without anxiety or stress. That’s how we bring down the mountains. That’s how we raise the valleys.
The New Testament adds another layer to this. Peace in the gospels can also imply, "to join or bind together something which has been separated or divided." That is why Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, or as Paul says, “he is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).” Jesus before his death could’ve blessed his disciples with anything, but he told them “Peace I leave unto you, my peace I give you (John 14:27).”
Jesus underscores the importance of pursing peace when he teaches in his beatitudes, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God (Matt. 5:9).” The task of peace is to bring God’s wholeness to earth. Bring low those mountains, raise those valleys. Jane Adams, the first woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, described it well: “True Peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of Justice.”
This is the work of God’s peace. To bring down the mountains. To fill in the valleys. To make straight the crooked paths. In our individual hearts and heart of humanity. Listen to the following story.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a sparrow asked a wild dove.
“It is nothing,” was the answer. “In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the sparrow said. “I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say-the branch broke off.” Having said that, the sparrow flew away.
The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
You know what? I may sound silly, but I reclaim the power of the single snowflake. The power of one voice. The power to wear down the mountain. The power to fill the valley. The power in unity to straighten the path. The power together to break the branch. And when those mountains are finally worn down, when the valleys are finally filled, when the branch has finally broken and the path straightened, may we know peace on earth. Peace in every heart.
Thanks be to God.
Read more: Are You in the Top One Percent of the World? | Investopedia https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/050615/are-you-top-one-percent-world.asp#ixzz50bPBYFMW