Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “A prison cell where one waits for release, where one is completely dependent on the door of freedom having to be opened from the OUTSIDE, is not a bad picture of Advent.”
Bonhoeffer knew what it was like to languish in prison without hope of release, condemned by Hitler’s Nazi regime to die. No way out unless someone opens the door!
At Advent we mark the coming of the Prince of Peace, the coming of Jesus. And as Bonhoeffer observes, the shalom that Jesus brings is not something we contrive within ourselves as persons, families, or even nations. It is gift from OUTSIDE our human experience that Jesus alone offers.
But if Jesus is our Prince of Peace, he doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job. If we did his end-of-year review, we might find ourselves suggesting areas for improvement.
“Jesus, it’s pretty obvious that when you enter history, yes, whenever you show up, the result is often anything but peace! Because of you, King Herod kills innocent babies of Bethlehem; religious leaders hate and oppose your ministry; Roman soldiers consider you a troublemaker and nail you to a cross; families and nations have been divided ever since over who you are!”
But Jesus would (I think) gently respond: “My friend, you don’t understand the peace I bring. My shalom means a healthy relationship between you and me that flows over into healthy relationships with others. My shalom gives you a deeply rooted sense of well-being that the problems of life won’t destroy. My shalom means forgiveness, loving your enemies, clinging to faith when life is incredibly hard.”
“I came so that you could have life and have it more abundantly. I came from OUTSIDE your world so that all that needs settling in your INSIDE world can be put right, and stay right, forever.”