For the second week of Advent, many churches (including mine) focus on the theme of peace. A song from one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Josh Garrels, is a beautiful meditation on this theme. As I listen to O Day of Peace, from his album, The Light Came Down, it prompts in me a deep hunger for the peace it envisions. That hunger is a good thing. To yearn for peace is to take at least a small step toward truly becoming a peacemaker. Having an internal picture of how beautiful peace is can create a desire to abolish those things that stand in its way—in the bigger world, yes, but initially and necessarily, starting with oneself.
I invite you to experience this song in three steps: to read the lyrics, listen to the song as sung by Garrels, and meditate and pray using his instrumental version of the song.
O Day of Peace
by Josh Garrels and Carl P. Daw, Jr.
O day of peace that dimly shines
Through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
Guide us to justice, truth, and love,
Delivered from our selfish schemes.
May swords of hate fall from our hands,
Our hearts from envy find release,
Till by God's grace our warring world
Shall see Christ's promised reign of peace.
Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,
Nor shall the fierce devour the small;
As beasts and cattle calmly graze,
A little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love,
All creatures find their true accord;
The hope of peace shall be fulfilled,
For all the earth shall know the Lord.
As you read the words, notice the link between actions, desires, and the bringing about of peace. It is that vision of peace that provides a directional compass for us so that our actions and attitudes build toward peace instead of thwarting it.
This vision does more than deliver us or others from wrong actions; it fundamentally delivers us from our own stances that are at odds with God's peacemaking values. We need to be delivered from the swords we hold in our hands, our own selfishness, our own enmity toward others, our own envy. Notice throughout the song who is being delivered from what. Is the peace directed at only the human world or does encompass the wider world? Notice the movement between the second and third stanzas—how do you account for this shift?
The picture of what this leads to is a prophecy worth working toward. The biblical picture of this, which can be found in Isaiah 11:6-9, is a promise from God. Do you believe this promise? If so, how does believing this promise free you to act in accordance with its values?
As Josh Garrels sings this beautiful song, I invite you to let it work within you to make a yearning inside you for this peace to reign.
Notice the relationships between all the creatures, the earth, and God. Notice how relationship is central to this view of biblical peace and how this peace reaches far beyond our own individual emotions.
Finally, invite you to listen to the instrumental version of this song as you pray your own prayer. Let the music guide you to picture your own circumstances, your own schemes, your own swords, your own envy. Use it to accompany your own prayers for peace to reign in you and the wider world.
Let yourself picture what it is like when natural enemies are able to dwell together in peace. Make a place in yourself for the longing that the small and powerless are made safe. Let yourself hope and yearn for this vision to be tangible and real to us all. Welcome that hunger to enter you, with the understanding that this hunger will orient you toward peace.
It takes courage to put down the things that protect us and to live as if peace is possible. Is there a sword or scheme you want to be rid of this Advent?
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For more information about Josh Garrels and to hear more of his music, visit his website.