Evensong for Peace

11/30/04
-- by Sister Jaqueline Stoll

Reading

Isaiah 40:3-5

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all
shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Reflection

Advent is a time of endings and a time of new beginnings. As this year draws to a close, it is certainly easy for one to feel discouraged about the prospects for peace in the year that lies ahead. As people of faith committed to peace, how can we continue on in our efforts to bring God's peace to this world? How can we prepare for the celebration commemorating the birth of Christ, the "Prince of Peace?" In the reading we have just heard, the prophet Isaiah speaks to the Israelites, a people living in exile who, like us, were discouraged and perhaps feeling hopeless in their search for peace.

To the people of Israel and, I believe, to us, Isaiah speaks words of consolation and hope. Isaiah reminds the Israelites that God will make "every mountain and hill …low," and will lead them out of their exile to a land of peace. First however, they must be willing to listen for the voice of God in the wilderness. We too are called to enter into the wilderness, the wilderness of solitude, in order that we may hear God's voice crying out in our own hearts. Solitude and silence can feel as uncomfortable and as threatening for us as the wilderness was in Isaiah's time. Unless our efforts for peace are built on a solid foundation of prayer however, we will not have the strength or the energy to preserver over the long haul.

As true as this is, Isaiah would not have us staying in the desert alone with God forever. Once we have heard God's voice, we are to go out and "prepare the way of the Lord," or as our brother Dominic might say, we are to "bear the fruits of our contemplation in our actions." Notice, however, that it is still God who will make the "rugged land and the rough country … a plain." We certainly have our part to play in the work for peace, but peace cannot be a goal that we strive for on our own, lest we risk becoming overwhelmed.

We all know that the journey towards peace is not an easy one. During this season of Advent, I pray that we may take the words of Isaiah to heart so that, after we have been to the wilderness to listen to the voice of God, and done our part to prepare the way for the "God of Peace" in our world, we will be able to proclaim with the heavenly hosts on Christmas morning; "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace" (Luke 2:14).

Concluding Prayer:
Loving God, as you bring us into this season of Advent, we ask you to give us open hearts so that we may hear the words of peace that you speak to us, so that our spirits may be refreshed and renewed to continue on the journey towards peace in our world. We ask this through Christ who came to bring us peace. Amen.