The nature channels on television offer great episodes on strange animal buddies: a deer that comes to the fence every morning and runs up and down playing with a dachshund; a box turtle playmate for a fox kit; a yellow Labrador’s daily swim with a dolphin in an Irish bay. Isaiah’s peaceable realm has little in-breaking hints—but they’re certainly not the norm.
What would our world be like if there were no predator and no prey? If all animals ate grass and hay and grain, the carnivores would surely have less energy. Their lives might be less productive, more lethargic; fewer offspring, less energy for doing carnivorous things. Perhaps the scavengers would become a bit more competitive. Would the prey animals develop some new purpose for life instead of survival?
And what of people? What of us? Our paintings show the peaceable realm with the toddlers playing with a bowl of colorful snakes like it’s a bowl of sour candies, a tiny lamb curled in the forepaws of a hugely maned lion. (Despite Isaiah’s noting that the wolf shall live with the lamb.) “And a little child shall lead them,” Isaiah depicts it for us.
When the earth is filled with the knowledge of God, peace reigns. But will we appreciate that peace? Will the little child be petulant, prone to tantrums? Will the lambs demand their turn to dominate the lion pride? Will the scavenger animals require mediation?
Our seasonal contemplation about the advent of peace is not a simple proposition. If we hope for peace, we would do well to work for it.
Spirit of peace, we would not be naïve. We would be thoughtful and careful as we pursue peace and justice. Challenge our oversimplification; make us brave. Amen.
The Old Testament roots of Advent hope are cast in royal imagery. The psalm marks the king as one whose work is to bring justice to the weak. The new king makes a new world possible. The Gospel reading is both invitation and warn- ing that we must make concrete decisions to reorder our life in ways appropriate to God’s new intention. Characteristically Paul makes the grand, sweeping claim: The new behavior appropriate to God’s new governance is that the strong and the weak, the haves and have-nots, relate to each other in new faithfulness. Advent is spent pondering speci c decisions about bringing our daily life into sync with God’s rule.
• Read Isaiah 11:1-10. When do you allow yourself “fallow” time? How does that time of “resting” nurture your fruitful- ness?
• Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. This prayer for the king expresses the qualities that the people desire in a leader. What would you add to the list?
• Read Romans 15:4-13. Paul notes that Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Consider the last several months: Whom have you welcomed for the glory of God?
• Read Matthew 3:1-12. What is growing in your heart’s wil- derness this Advent season?
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