Written by Brian Johnson

“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 (CEB)

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

It’s an absurd image: predator and prey living in harmony.  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 lie 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 been accomplished.  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 the end, 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 against evil for me AND the One who died to save 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.

If you miss any of our daily readings, you can find them archived here. (Readings will be added each day.) We hope these readings will help you encounter God this season!