“A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; 

    a branch will sprout from his roots. 

The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, 

    a spirit of wisdom and understanding, 

    a spirit of planning and strength, 

    a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. 

He will delight in fearing the Lord. 

He won’t judge by appearances, 

    nor decide by hearsay. 

He will judge the needy with righteousness, 

    and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land. 

He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth; 

    by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked. 

Righteousness will be the belt around his hips, 

    and faithfulness the belt around his waist. 

The wolf will live with the lamb, 

    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; 

    the calf and the young lion will feed together, 

    and a little child will lead them. 

The cow and the bear will graze. 

    Their young will lie down together, 

    and a lion will eat straw like an ox. 

A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole; 

    toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den. 

They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. 

    The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, 

    just as the water covers the sea.” 

  • Isaiah 11:1-9 

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments on our family tree is the one pictured here – lion and a lamb snuggling together, laying down in peace. 

It’s an absurd image – predator and prey living in peace.  It’s not possible in this world – sure, we love those cute internet videos about the cheetah and the deer who became best friends, but, at some point, if that cheetah gets hungry, that deer is toast – because, when its life is on the line, the cheetah’s instincts will kick in, and it will rip the deer to shreds.  That’s what predators do – they consume their prey. 

We can’t imagine a world without violence.  Most of us depend upon it to sustain our very lives (unless you’re a vegetarian – and I’m not – violence is necessary to put the meat we eat on our plates). But the Bible promises us that one day, in the end, God will transform this world.  In the end, there will be no more violence.  It will no longer be a dog-eat-dog world – in the end, peace will reign (even if that seems impossible now). 

Advent is a season when we pray for this promise to come true – we pray for God to put an end to violence, to enter into our world and bring the peace that we can’t achieve on our own, to spread the perfect love that we all too easily abandon.  During Advent, we pray for God to make the Lion and Lamb lay down together, to defeat evil and death, to bring victory for the Prince of Peace. 

And here’s the funny thing about Advent – we hope for these things, but we also know that they’ve already happened.  On the cross, God has already defeated evil and death.  Because Jesus suffered violence and death on the cross, God has declared the reign of death over.  We know that life triumphs over death, because we have seen it happen on Easter.  We are bold to hope for God’s ultimate victory because we know that it has already been won. 

And, so, we pray for the lion to lay down with the lamb, today – for peace to triumph today – as we know it will in God’s future kingdom. 

Here’s the other funny thing about this image – about the lion and the lamb: both of these animals are biblical images of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the Lion of Judah – the one who fights for us, who defends us with a ferocious love.  Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God – the innocent one who suffers for our sake, the one whose blood is poured out as a sacrifice for us.  When I look at the lion and the lamb on my Christmas tree, not only am I looking at a promise of God’s future of peace, I am also looking at an image of Jesus Christ – the One who fights for me AND the One who died for me. 

The wolf will live with the lamb, 

    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; 

    the calf and the young lion will feed together, 

    and a little child will lead them. 

May it be so.  Amen. 

—Pastor Brian

Advent ’23 Entries

Advent23: December 24

A Musical Advent As the Communications Director for Haymarket Church, I get the opportunity to see and read all of the Advent (and also Lent) devotional entries before anyone else. Well, Pastor Brian receives some of them via email before I do … but you get the…

Advent23: December 21

Christmas Breakfast When I think of Christmas, I think of breakfast.  Since I was little, the most central element of my family’s Christmas celebration has been eating a big breakfast together on Christmas morning.  When I was young, it drove me crazy.  We’d come…

Advent23: December 20

Were there Hobbits at the Nativity?  It is no secret in the Bryden household that J.R.R. Tolkien (of the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion fame) is my favorite author. While I am not an avid reader, I couldn’t put his books down once I started – with the…

Advent23: December 22

On Sunday in worship, our preacher, Rev. Shannon Hendricks, preached about the story of Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:26-56).  In her sermon, she referenced a song called “The Canticle of the Turning.”  This song is a reinterpretation of the song Mary sings…

Advent23: December 19

The Rebel Jesus  One of my favorite Christmas songs is Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus.” It’s not quite a traditional song, but every year, when it’s time for us to start reading Chapter 1 of Luke, there’s something about this song that just – well, I think this…

Advent23: December 18

It was Thanksgiving Week of 1972 when I flew into National Airport to report to my first duty station, Ft. Meade, MD, after completing basic training. I had just turned 18 the previous May and was going to spend my Army stint as a trumpeter in the First US Army…

Advent23: December 17

What must it have been like to be Mary?  Her life got turned upside-down when an angel told her that she was going to give birth to God’s son.  It almost ended her marriage.  It must have strained relationships with family, friends, and neighbors –…

Advent23: December 16

Mary Did You Know? Thirty-plus years ago, my husband, daughter and I were living in Bonn, Germany; at the time Germany’s capital. Bill had been offered a position in Bonn by his employer and we both thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to live in Europe; and…

Advent23: December 15

Mary, Did You Know? Between my husband’s side and mine, we each have 2 siblings who each have at least two children. But while mine are all in Baltimore, Sean’s all live closer to us. We used to split the day of Christmas, Thanksgiving – and all other holidays that…

Advent23: December 14

Finding Home  “Are you going home for the holidays?”  This is a question that I hear many times.  It’s a friendly inquiry but it has taken me years to answer honestly.  I did used to go “home” to CA for the holidays.  When I was married, we…

Advent23: December 13

Where Is The Love? When I was in the last semester of my senior year of high school, I decided to take an online English class. At the time, this was a brand new option; it sounded exciting and easy to just do this class on my own at home on our family computer…

Advent23: December 12

The Sounds of Christmas (A Group entry by our High School Small Group) _______________ Every year on Christmas Eve, ever since I was little, I have watched the Trans-Siberian Orchestra movie with my dad. It has always been the soundtrack to my Christmas and…

Advent23: December 11

For at least a 20+ year period of my life, I had beef with the shepherds from the Nativity story. It all started in the early 2000’s when I was an 11 year-old youngster. As a young, gay, Pentecostal pastor’s kid, my chances for dressing in shiny and bejeweled…

Advent23: December 10

On the second Sunday of Advent, we are talking about John the Baptist.  Advent is kinda weird, in that we prepare for Christmas (at least during early Advent) by telling stories that happened when Jesus was an adult.  We get ready to celebrate the birth…

Advent23: December 9

Over the last week or so, there’s a song I’ve been listening to quite a lot.  It’s called “Thou Who Wast Rich” and the version I’ve been listening to is performed by a group called “Ordinary Time.” There’s nothing fancy about the song – it’s just a hymn, and I…

Advent23: December 8

I love keeping family traditions, especially around Christmas time. Some traditions we have in our family include not listening to Christmas music until afterThanksgiving (although I think one of our daughters starts earlier each year), dipping pretzels inwhite…

Advent23: December 7

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices”  This line from the popular Christmas song, O Holy Night, carried me through the Christmas of 2021. As the world continued to isolate due to COVID-19, I was navigating a challenging diagnosis. By December 2021, my…

Advent23: December 6

Be warned: today’s Advent devotion includes some profanity.  First, an explanation: Advent is a season that is traditionally associated with the biblical genre of apocalypticism.  Apocalypticism (or “apocalyptic” or “apocalypse”) is a genre of literature…

Advent23: December 5

Growing up in Michigan, one of my favorite things was coming out of the Christmas Eve service to a light blanket of snow on the sidewalk. It happened pretty much every Christmas and is a very special memory for me. So, when I moved down to Virginia, I had the…

Advent23: December 4

Every year in December, my Mom would bring out the “Christmas Lamp” to mine and my siblings excited delight.  The vintage 1957 Econolite motion lamp, pictured here, is a paper lantern sitting on a base with a light bulb.  Between the light and…

Advent23: December 3

Advent is a counterintuitive season. It ends with joy joy – joy to the world, joy beyond our ability to fathom it. At the end of Advent comes Christmas, when we celebrate the Light of the World entering into our darkness, the Prince of Peace overcoming our…