December 22, 2020

Presbyterians Today, PC(USA)
Advent Christmas Devotionals 2020
"Let Us Light Candles"
Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! Yet he too is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will rise against the house of the evildoers, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. The Egyptians are human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and the one helped will fall, and they will all perish together. For thus the Lord said to me, as a lion or a young lion growls over its prey, and—when a band of shepherds is called out against it—is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the Lord of hosts will come down to fight upon Mount Zion and upon its hill. Like birds hovering overhead, so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; he will protect and deliver it, he will spare and rescue it. Turn back to him whom you have deeply betrayed, O people of Israel. For on that day all of you shall throw away your idols of silver and idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you. “Then the Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of mortals; and a sword, not of humans, shall devour him; he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be put to forced labor. His rock shall pass away in terror, and his officers desert the standard in panic,” says the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 31:1–9
Safe and secure
My husband went to get his pickup treated with an anti-rust undercoating — a necessity in Vermont where road salt is damaging to trucks. He went to a mom-and-pop auto store that just happened to be a gun retailer, too. (Yes, only in Vermont.)

When he came home, he told me about a conversation he overheard as he was paying his bill. The cashier was having a side conversation with a few friends and mentioned how great gun sales were. In fact, the other day, she had sold four guns in less than a half-hour.

I felt uneasy when I heard this. I felt a twinge of fear as I remembered hearing the recent statistic that Americans have purchased almost 17 million guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year on record, according to Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting, a research firm that tracks firearms.

People are afraid of the social and political unrest in our country. They want to feel safe and secure. They want to protect whatever peace there is. Yet the season of Advent reminds us that peace will not be obtained with a firearm.

Isaiah tells us that trusting in horsemen because they are strong and relying on chariots because there are many of them are not where our security lies. Real peace comes when we look to the Holy One of Israel. Security is found when we consult the Lord.

Living in a rural area, where I learned that the opening weekend of hunting season meant low attendance in church that Sunday, I can understand why there are those who bristle over gun-control laws. Having guns is a rite of passage for many rural teens. But I can’t shake how troubling it is that the rise in gun sales coincides with a recent FBI report that hate crimes in the United States have risen to the highest level in more than a decade.

It seems what Howard Thurman wrote decades ago, is true today, that “the panic of fear, the torture of insecurity, the ache of hunger” have “rekindled ancient hatreds.” These ancient hatreds, though, are not kindling. They are a raging fire.

Do you want to feel safe and secure? Then let us lean into the everlasting arms of the Savior — the One who was born for a world such as we live in now. Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice … Jesus Christ was born for this!

Pray
God, may a peace that passes all understanding enter into my life this Advent season. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Go deeper
The work for peace is great, and it begins with education. Every year the Southern Poverty Law Center updates a national map of hate group activity. See the hate groups in your state at splcenter.org/hate-map
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009
770-751-0033 www.alpharettapres.com