“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
A number of years ago, I met in Washington, D.C. with other Christians who were concerned about world peace. We gathered on December 27 for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, in memory of the baby male children who were murdered by Herod in his attempt to kill Jesus. We were there, wanting to say that life is sacred and that the future needs to be safe for our children.
We stayed in the sanctuary of an old gothic-style church. Sleeping bags were unrolled beside pews. In the night, in the midst of the echoes of hymns and cantors, one could hear the crying of children who awoke afraid, not knowing where they were.
In the mornings, as we prepared to witness at the Pentagon, and in the afternoons, when we returned, people sat quietly—praying or reading or visiting. Children played with each other. Some people straightened suitcases or sleeping bags.
One afternoon after a particularly intense experience at the Pentagon, the room was filled with silence. I thought about war, death, and the witness that had been given in the morning. Several of our people had been arrested for blocking the doors to the river entrance of the Pentagon.
As I sat, I noticed a tiny, blond-haired, three-year-old named Noah walking back and forth in front of the altar. Holding a hymnal to his chest, he chanted words that only he understood. Noah walked to the center of the altar and turned to stand before the cross. He raised his eyes to the cross, knelt, and lay down prostrate before the altar. I was a congregant in a holy ritual led by a child.
The scriptures shared during this time of year are often from the prophet Isaiah. “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Is. 11:6). Sometimes, even today, images of peace and justice still seem like dreams, just as far away to us as to the people in Isaiah’s time. Yet Christ continues to breathe into our longings a hunger and passion to work for peace in the midst of our broken world.
As we prepare for the birth of the Prince of Peace this Advent season, I invite you to watch for the peace-makers—those who seek peace in our communities and in our world. Ask for God’s gentle guidance as you seek peace in your heart, family, or community. Let the little Child of Bethlehem lead you in the pathways of peace as you hear echoes of angels declaring, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14).
Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel. Her latest release from Upper Room Books is Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent.
Photography by Ryan Arnst / Unsplash