There's a phrase that often drifts in and out of my head during this particular week of Advent--a week when we reflect on what it means that Jesus brings peace to a world that seems far from peaceful.
Here is the phrase: "Peace Like A River."
What does it even mean to have peace like a river? And how do we find peace in this troubled world?
Horatio Spafford wrote the great hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" in 1873 after losing all four of his daughters when the ship carrying them and his wife sank in the Atlantic ocean. The first line of the song is, "When peace like a river, attendeth my way..."
When I was a kid, I would sing the old song, "I've Got Peace Like a River" at the top of my lungs in Sunday school. Little did I know that the song originated from African American slaves, who would sing it at the top of their lungs in the fields as they worked.
Paul Simon wrote "Peace Like A River" during the turbulence of the 1960's. In his song, he has a vision of a river of peace that flows through a city made new. He realizes that it was just a dream, but he holds on to the vision long after he's awake.
Rivers are highly symbolic in literature, poetry and song. According to one scholar, a river in a song, poem or prose seems timeless and constant
"...only because it finds its own way without short cuts, straight lines, or disregard of any physical impediments but in full acknowledgement of the reality of all that surrounds it, implying that the longest way round is the shortest and only safe way to the sea."In other words, the river gets to where it is going--in it's own time and in it's own way. To put a finer point on it as it relates to peace: Peace will come. The world will be made right. Everything that is troubling you will be resolved. There is a "glorious day" ahead of us, brothers and sisters.
Jesus is on his way.
In Isaiah 54:10 the prophet declares the word of the Lord to the people of God:
"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you."May you find peace like a river as you wait upon the Lord this Advent season, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.