Doing Peace Means Practicing Grace

Ironic, isn’t it; that the week of Advent where we acknowledge God’s peace just happens to be one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing times of our entire year?
The Church that crafted our Advent season wasn’t trying to be comical. Emmanuel, God with Us, does in fact yield peace.
This is how:
God’s decision to become flesh and to live among us is rooted in God’s desire to extend grace to you and me. Although undeserved, God chose to come into our world in the person of Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. In Jesus, God taught us about the depth of his love, the extent of our need for a savior, and the promise of eternal life with God. We experience God’s peace when we choose to accept God’s grace in Jesus. Grace begets peace—peace for us and peace for our world. Christ’s life, ministry and sacrifice give us shalom (the Hebrew word for peace) which means wholeness.
In giving us Jesus, God gives us grace and we taste the peace that comes with God’s favor. Yet, we are not called to simply be consumers of God’s grace. We are to become active participants with God in extending grace and peace to others.
Put more succinctly, God’s peace is not a commodity. God’s peace is a call to action.
That’s right, in addition to ‘doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God,’ God expects us to ‘do peace,’ just as God has modeled for us. Doing peace means practicing grace.
Practicing grace means seeing the best in people when we’d rather let them have it.
Practicing grace means finding ways to be thankful rather than arguing for what you want and are rightfully owed.
Practicing grace means giving someone the benefit of the doubt, even when you are over-flowing with doubt.
Practicing grace means seeing the big picture when it’s more desirable to focus on the weeds.
Practicing grace means reminding yourself that at some level, everyone is hurting and is genuinely trying to do good.  
Practicing grace is not a sickly sweet, southern-styled, kill-them-with-kindness, passive aggressiveness. Practicing grace genuinely means giving someone a break when they don’t deserve it.
Practicing grace is what peace looks like.
But here’s the honest truth. We tend to be least gracious when we are anxious, stressed, or afraid. When we ourselves are not well, we have little capacity to provide grace to one another. Instead, our own ill-tempered dispositions, impatience, irritations and exasperations bear a bitter fruit that can sour our encounters and poison our relationships.
So what are we well-intentioned, on-edge people to do?
We must receive God’s grace in order to extend God’s grace. We must acknowledge that we, ourselves, make mistakes, botch things up and say things that we shouldn’t. Once we’ve come clean about our own reality, we must accept God’s grace to us even though we don’t deserve it.
At the beginning of each worship service, we have a segment that we call, ‘Passing the Peace.’ We extend it—“May the Peace of Christ be with you!”—and we receive it back, hearing: “And also with you!”
These are good words, but we cannot be content with these scripted statements. These good words, like the Word, must become real.