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The Fire of Peace

The candle of Peace awaits the fire of conviction and commitment. Huddle around that flickering flame and shield it from the winds of war and the breezes of bigotry.

Advent candles burn upon an Advent wreath in a centuries-old ritual of rekindling the anticipation of the coming of the Christ, both in history and as a future expectation. Week-by-week the candles are lighted. Each of the five candles carries a specific focus of waiting. The first week ignites Hope. The second week nurtures the flame of Peace. On the third week Joy blazes bright, followed by the glow of Love on the fourth week. Finally on Christmas Day the central candle offers a focus to the previous four, making complete the circle of fire, announcing the coming of the Christ, both yesteryear and tomorrow.            <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Like all progressive constructions, the Advent wreath has a weak link. In times of depression and despair, the candle of Hope is hard to light. When strife rules the day the candle of Joy resists accepting the offered flame. Hurt and a history of betrayal make it difficult to ignite the candle of Love. These days the candle of Peace is the most likely to fail. If it does—God forbid—the Christ candle in the middle of the wreath will cast an uneven light all around.           
The candle of Peace, which most recently received its flame, is vulnerable this year. It is, perhaps, more vulnerable than it has been for decades.           
What is needed this year is for people of faith to huddle around the candle of Peace and shield it from the winds of war and the breezes of bigotry that waft toward it, threatening to snuff it out before it has a chance to blaze. Despite its serene name, the candle of Peace is not a home for calm.  
On the contrary. Peace always requires the hard work of building and nurturing and securing. Peacemaking is hard work. The quest for peace always risks conflict and confrontation with the confidence that conflict leads to clarity of purpose. To light the candle of Peace should be a commitment to work for peace, with all of the risks involved.           
Christians are not alone in the world when it comes to commitments toward peace. That claim would only contribute to the winds and breezes of all that is against peace and threatens to snuff it out.           
Christians do, however, have a distinctive model for bringing light to the darkness of our world. The Christ whom the Gospel of John claims as “the light that shines in the darkness” turned that same claim upon his followers when he said, “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14).           
The candle of Peace awaits the fire of conviction and commitment. Huddle around that flickering flame and shield it from the winds of war and the breezes of bigotry. Nurture the light and fire of the candle of Peace with conviction and commitment. 
Rick Wilson is the Columbus Roberts Professor of Theology and chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity in Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts in Macon, Ga.