Reflection 12/7: Shalom
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
Shalom. Most of us realize this is the ancient Jewish word for peace. Shalom. It’s also a greeting and a blessing when someone is departing. It is the most profound gift from God. We get the meaning of Shalom wrong, because we think of Shalom too small. The second Advent wreath candle is lit this coming Sunday in the name of peace. That is, in the name Shalom.
Shalom is not merely the absence of violent conflict. War obviously is antithetical to Shalom. You can’t have Shalom alongside violence, weapons, and threats. Beyond the mere absence of war, Shalom is a state of perfect well-being, where danger does not lurk. Privation does not exist where Shalom abounds. Shalom is safety, a table of food, and a warm bed. Shalom is being able to leave the doors unlocked. It is not having to worry about sending the kids out to play on their own and out of sight.
Shalom is where “… justice rolls down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)” And, when we can ” beat … swords into plowshares, and … spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)” It is when we, “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)” It is that time when God “will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. (Revelation 21:4)”
Shalom is huge, humanity’s most devout wish. That is why there are innumerable Bible passages that describe and pray for Shalom. Shalom is what happens when the Son of God enters into human, earthly history, and walks among us, “the Word made flesh.” Shalom guarantees “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)”
We should not relegate Shalom to a mere candle in the Advent wreath. Rather, we should raise countless candles to Shalom, all of us, throughout our lives and down through history. Candles help us walk in darkness. We should beat swords into candle molds to banish the danger of the night.
All of that is why we light candles in Advent and all year round, on our altars, and on our tables—peace candles.