The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them. — Isaiah 11:6
Maybe I should have known, but it occurred to me a few years ago that the Christmas decoration Pete Peterson made with a lion and a lamb and the word PEACE might be obscure for some folks. Many people, Christians and otherwise, recognize the guy with the red suit. Folk know to expect greenery, garlands and bows. Everyone seems to enjoy the lights that take on greater significance during the winter holidays of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the Solstice. But it took a friend saying, “Why a lion and a lamb?” for me to realize that the prophetic image from Isaiah of G-d’s peaceful reign was not an image most people associated with the Christmas season.
When Pete showed me the plans, I was really taken with the biblical image of peace. I think folks rarely spend much time considering what G-d’s peace will look like, how we might experience it, what the cost of it might be. I suspect that most of us think of divine peace as life like it is, only easier, without the annoying people, the confusing situations, the challenging ethical questions of the day. That’s why the simplicity of placing the vulnerable image of the defenseless lamb next to the powerful, predatory lion spoke to me. The two animals, in tranquil relationship was an eloquent, elegant representation of a peace that is more challenging, confusing, annoying than we have allowed ourselves to consider.
Christians hail the birth of “G-d with us,” Immanuel, at Christmas and call him Jesus, Messiah, Prince of Peace. By the last week of his life amongst us, he referred to himself metaphorically as the Paschal lamb. We may want a Savior who is known for strength, power, might, but the prophetic image in both testaments is of a Messiah who redeems that which is broken, who reunifies that which is divided, who brings together predator and prey in peace. This peace is difficult for those of us who feel vulnerable and possibly more difficult for those of us who are hungry and powerful.
During this Christmas season, while we move into a new year and toward Epiphany, wise folks may seek out the vulnerable Christ child. I invite you to consider when you feel like the wolf, the leopard or the lion. When do you identify more with the lamb or the kid? How will you let the little child lead you into G-d’s peaceful reign?
Christmas blessings of reconciliation all year long,