David Kerrigan was 8 years old and scared.
It was 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis threatened to destroy the world. He cuddled his baby brother while listening to the radio and found his childhood peace being profoundly disturbed.
The subject of peace is in the forefront of our minds as we commemorate the end of World War I.
Yet our world is not at peace; even in places where warfare is not raging, there is conflict within nations, families and ourselves – alongside moments of great joy.
In his short book of Advent reflections, titled “The Prince of Peace in a World of Wars,” Kerrigan shows us that peace is not just a fragile stillness but something that can envelop us as we ride the roller coaster of life.
He begins with a section titled “Understanding Peace.” This unexpectedly starts on the night of the Last Supper.
But this is a strange night that exemplifies tension and unease, with the sense that a storm is about to break and the fear that Jesus will soon leave his disciples.
To them – and to us – he promises his continuous peace-giving presence.
We then return to the beginning, to God who promises peace “which passes all understanding.”
The author challenges our small preconceptions by stating that this encompasses every atom and molecule, man and woman, animal and plant, mountain and river, every pale blue dot representing planet Earth in the cosmos and every other dot flung into the far reaches of space.
The whole of creation has become unbalanced, and only the coming of Jesus makes it possible for equilibrium to be restored.
The second section of this book invites us to consider a variety of Bible characters who experienced divine peace.
Among others, we meet Joseph, who suffered the cruelty of his brothers; Ruth, who had to make life-changing decisions; Hannah, who found peace amid her heartbreak; and Paul, who knew peace even when deserted and facing death.
In each of these encounters, the author leads us beyond the stories to broader principles that relate to life today.
We continue with a progression through the story of the coming of the Prince of Peace. This naturally reaches a climax with the study for Christmas Day.
But the author notes the irony of the situation: The arrival of a baby is universally welcomed, yet its midnight crying and incessant demands for attention destroy a family’s peace.
And we are brought firmly down to earth with the reading for Boxing Day, where we hear Simeon telling Mary that her newborn son will be the cause of a “sword piercing her heart.” Peace has to be sought even in pain.
The book concludes with a series of suggestions as to how Christians may bring peace in practical ways, including relationships, justice, politics and the care of creation: all very suitable for New Year’s resolutions.
This excellent and realistic book takes its readers on an unusual Advent journey that offers no trite answers. Its author draws on his vast mission experience and knowledge to both challenge and encourage us. I commend it.
Andrew Kleissner is the minister of Christchurch United Church, Llanedeyrn, Cardiff, United Kingdom.