Over the last few years I have come to appreciate Fred Rogers more than I did as a child. The combination of entering into parenthood and exploring Emotionally Healthy Spiritually together with my fellow staff members at Westbrook opened my eyes to what kind of treasure Mister Rogers Neighborhood actually is. He very intentionally and gently walks children through tough situations that they may face in their lives. Everything from being mad to your parents divorcing or even experiencing death.
One of the most wonderful things about Fred Rogers, as well, is the amount peace with which he carries himself. You never get the impression that he is upset or angry with anyone. He always seems to find a way to connect with other people no matter how different they are. From what I’ve heard, this was not only true of him on the show, but in real life as well. It strikes me that this example of peace is precisely the one that we need to reflect on during advent.
Peace is one of those things that we tend to think about and wish for during this season. We read how Jesus is the prince of Peace, how the angels proclaimed peace to the shepherds, and songs of the holiday season frequently center around peace. But what does it mean for us to have peace on earth? Does it simply mean to not be fighting?
Paul writes this in Colossians 1, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
When we look at what Paul describes, being at peace with God is defined by a restored relationship. Our sin was not simply erased, but we were reconciled to God and reunited with him. We were in good standing with God.
This is a huge difference than simply not fighting. This can be illustrated in the difference between I typically treat people and the way that Fred Rogers did. I move through public spaces often attempting to slide through and get my business done. You probably relate to this. When we watch Mister Rogers on his show, he makes his way from person to person and making an effort to know to them, show care and interest for them, and develop a relationship with them even if it is just a small one. This is peace.
Advent reminds us to the peace that Jesus brings into the world and prompts us to be peacemakers as well. Imagine what your neighborhood would be like if you interacted with each person you came across in such away to make peace with them, that is to make a relationship and be in good standing with them. This is why Jesus came to us, to live with us. Eugene Peterson translated John 1:14 in the message as, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Peace came and moved into our neighborhood. It’s time for us to do the same and be peacemakers in our neighborhood.
How can you make peace this season? Is there someone in your family or neighborhood with whom you need to make peace? Let’s go beyond not fighting and establish peace with those around us this holiday season.