Written by Alexandra Ellish
“Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but the presence of connection and completion.”
This sentence from the Bible Project’s exploration of shalom for week 2 of Advent struck me in a new way this year. The far-reaching and all-encompassing vision of shalom, which touches every aspect of life – relationships, economics, physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing – has captivated and motivated me as a follower of Jesus for some time now. I understand shalom to be what the kingdom of God in its fullness will be like, and also the way in which we, as Jesus-followers, are asked to walk to help realise that future. But the idea of this vision of peace as ‘connection’ seems especially poignant at a time when it feels like connection is the very thing that we are longing for so much. Connection and touch with our loved ones, connection with the wider world, and that special, spontaneous connection between strangers in a packed theatre, stadium or gig as we experience something immediate together. We need those moments, we long for them.
This Advent, a beacon of hope for me has come in the shape of a street Advent Calendar. Houses up and down our street have picked an evening to decorate their front window and each night since the 1st December, a new window has been ‘opened’ to reveal a Christmassy scene. So far there have been reindeers, shepherds, surfing Santa’s and Mary and Joseph sheltering in the shadow of London tower blocks. What has been even more brilliant than the crafting and artistic expression has been the way that neighbours have chatted on the pavement outside their houses, twinkling Christmas lights in the background. People, previously unknown to one another, connecting over mulled wine and homemade gingerbread reindeers. For the past week, we have shared a few minutes of connecting and sharing each evening, different neighbours popping past to admire freshly decorated windows.
As we lit the ‘peace’ candle this past Sunday, it was these everyday connections, people living on the same street becoming neighbours, learning names and becoming more of a community that came to mind. Sometimes peace-making can seem abstract, beyond what most of us can do in our normal lives. But it can be as simple as creating opportunities and spaces for conversation and connection. I continue to pray for peace, to look and work for it, and to expect to find it, on my street: in Advent windows, in random conversations; the sense of isolation diminishing, neighbours connecting and strangers becoming friends.
This post is part of an advent series. Twenty-Four diverse voices have been invited to share some thoughts on one of four themes (Hope, Peace, Joy and Love) each day during the season of Advent. Each contributor has been given just one theme and no further parameters – they may write as much or as little in the style of their own choosing.
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