Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Lambs and lions, babies and bears!



Background on this image by Edward Hicks:
Peaceable Kingdom

The prophet Isaiah announces a significant theme for this season (Isaiah 11:1-10):

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.

I've highlighted the portion offering images so suitable for a children's book. It might take a child's perspective to believe that such peace, such reconciliation could ever be our experience. But that's precisely what Advent invites us to dream: a peace that passes all understanding and a reconciliation beyond the terms of our ordinary experience. Advent invites us to look to the parousia and the fullness of God's reign over creation and humankind. That time of fulfillment will trumpet the end of all suffering, the healing of all brokenness, the lifting up of the lowly and the reconciliation of all things.

Until then, the gospel and this season of Advent call us to prepare by living out even now the promises of the kingdom. The prophet Isaiah, then, invites us to consider how we might reconcile relationships and realities that seem now to be irreconcilable; how we might learn to make guests of our enemies; how we might forgive the unforgivable; how we might set a table where all are welcome and none go hungry; and how we might achieve that justice which includes all and excludes none.

The venue for such reconciliation includes our families, homes, neighborhoods, schools, our work places, town, parish, the Church and all the nations on God's holy mountain. Ultimately the whole of creation and all peoples will face the justice of God's judgment: no relationship, word, or deed will stand outside God's desire that all be one.

Such is the message of Advent: a radical word calling us to responsibility for everything God has entrusted to our care and to a time when there will be no harm or ruin on all God's holy mountain. Lighting the candles on an Advent wreath and opening the windows on an Advent calendar are good things to do, but the real business of Advent is seeking out the venues of reconciliation in our own lives and the making of peace.

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