He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

There are certain traditions that just scream Christmas. For as much as I am spontaneous and adventurous, I also really revel in patterns and routines. There's a joy that can be found in the predictable. For instance, the verse above always shows up at Advent time. It doesn't seem to matter who's preaching or in what order, someone at the Bridge will somehow find their way to Isaiah 4. It's like clockwork. And it's a comfort to be sure.

But such repetition can also be to our detriment. Sometimes we think we know the meaning of a text, so we don't sit with it any more. Quick, what's the meaning of the parable of the sower? Be the good soil, right? We might be tempted to skip over it, or at least just skim, because we've been there before. I'll be honest, that's almost what I did with this passage today.

But then I took a few moments to pause, to reflect, and to ponder. I felt a profound sense of hope, that when Jesus is truly in charge of our lives there's no need for wars. And before you start imagining uniforms and tanks and marching drills, I also think that means there's no more need for the war inside. That war I'm nearly constantly fighting with myself over what is right and what is wrong is already won for me when I'm brave enough to put Jesus on the throne. Perhaps another way to imagine this is to say that when I allow Jesus to be in charge, the weapons of my inner war (defensiveness, sarcasm, greed) can be beaten into useful tools, like prayer and hope and generosity. And maybe that has a ripple effect as well. Maybe when we all start allowing Jesus to win the inner wars, there will be no need for the outer ones either. Maybe we'll recognize each other as beloved children of God, which certainly makes shooting each other a little bit harder. Maybe when we see another we'll start to see Jesus in them. Maybe we'll be less about the attack, and more about the help.

To anyone who might think that the Christian message is losing it's relevancy, read that scripture verse again the next time you watch the news. Tell me we shouldn't be preaching a message of peace, of turning weapons of war into tools for rebuilding.

This is an exciting thought, because Advent is all about the hopeful longing for the coming of Christ again. If Christ's return is about peace and hope and love and reconciliation, then sign me up. If Christ's return will bring reconciliation and the healing of the nations, then I'm all for it. But what's beautiful about the Advent season is that it's never been described as a passive waiting. We don't just sit around waiting for Christ to return. We participate in the Kingdom as it's been described for us.

So here's a challenge for you today: Turn a weapon of war into a tool for peace. Maybe you'll go as far as Shane Claiborne did at the Simple Way Church and actually turn a gun into a garden trowel, though if this is your plan I highly recommend a professional welder. But perhaps we start small, we work on some of those inner wars that we fight. Maybe we try to work on a relationship that's been strained. Maybe we try to see someone in a more Christ-like light. Whatever you choose, spend some time today turning a weapon of war into a tool for peace. I think you'll be really glad you did.

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