The Prince of Peace
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
It can be overwhelming—the barrenness of sin that perpetuates oppression, destruction, and lifelessness. The sex trafficking of women and children; refugees fleeing for their lives, being blockaded by numerous countries; and social shooters killing in public places are all overwhelming systems of injustice and sin. Looking at such turmoil, the prospect of peace may seem unimaginable. Yet, despite what seem to be impossible situations, the longing for peace never truly fades. And it is precisely in that space of longing that we ask the question, “from where does the hope of life arise amidst such barrenness?”
The Advent season is also a season of longing. Placed on the church calendar right before Jesus’ birth, Advent reenacts and remembers the deep-set longing of the Jewish people for their Messiah. The Messiah was an Old Testament figure who God would use to restore Israel and bring about peace upon the earth. If anyone understood what it meant to yearn for peace, it was the First-Century Jew. The land of Israel was a hotbed for political turmoil and empire conflict. Because of its geographical location, Israel was in the middle of a constant tug-of-war between major empires. To make matters worse, before Jesus arrived on the scene it had been over four hundred years since God had last spoken to Israel. Talk about barrenness!
The Gospel of Luke sheds light on the theme of barrenness and life. Luke introduces us to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, who was unable to conceive a child. Elizabeth’s womb was barren. Amazingly, Zechariah (the husband of Elizabeth) would experience a vision while tending to some duties in the temple. In this vision, an Angel of God would reveal the good news that life would be brought from Elizabeth’s barrenness. A husband and wife would bear a child through the life bearing work of God. Barrenness would be overcome by life.
Luke does not stop there. The narrative continues with Mary who is without a husband and is clearly stated as being a virgin. Why bring that up? Because Mary’s barrenness is of a completely different nature. This is not a husband and wife who are unable to conceive. It is a situation where life is completely impossible apart from God. Like her cousin Elizabeth, Mary would also be visited by an Angel revealing the astonishing news of the life to come. From barrenness, in which life is completely unexpected, a virgin gives birth to a child and his name shall be called Prince of Peace.
The Advent season is a time of acknowledging the barrenness in our lives: the systems of injustice, the pains of sickness and disease, the wounding of friends and family, and the loss of those closest to us. And yet Advent is also a season of hope. It is a season of longing for Christ to enter those barren places in our lives and birth his peace and life in those spaces. In a mysterious way, Mary and Elizabeth represent all those who long for the hope of life. We too can clutch to that same hope in the midst of barrenness, in the midst of injustice, in the midst of sin, in the midst of mass pain and suffering. Rather than remaining aloof from such places, Jesus brings his very self by the Spirit and enters into the barren womb. It is Jesus who can bring life from the impossibility of life. It is in Jesus that our hope is found. During the Advent season, we prepare with eager expectation for the peace of Christ to come. My prayer is that we would not forget that what we often see as hopelessly barren places, God sees as fertile ground from which Jesus, the Prince of Peace, may be birthed.
May the peace of Christ be with you.