“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10: 34-39
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Luke 12: 49-53
Advent is a time of celebration of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, so we are very unprepared to hear Christ came to divide us from what and who we value. Yet He makes clear His purpose for coming, both in Matthew and Luke: the price of following Him involves separating ourselves from our life that was, in order to find our new life in Him.
His is not a sword of violence raised against an enemy: Jesus immediately heals the wounded ear, demanding that we put away our swords.
Instead, like a surgeon cutting away what threatens us, He wields a spiritual sword of division that separates those who have faith from those who do not, even among family members. Those of us who have known this kind of division in our families pray for restoration by His healing hand.
By His birth, we are on notice we will be divided. Through His death, we are to take up the cross and follow when others turn away. Because of His resurrection, we are given new life, whole and holy.