When playing with snakes is a good idea

Week 13, Day 5

For December 3

Isaiah 11. 1-10; Luke 1. 26-38

The full text for this week is given below.

The human spirit bends in two directions—toward kindness and peace or toward violence and greed. In every case and all situations humans are offered two alternative ways of being—to be kind and peaceful or to be violent and greedy. It is in our nature, an expression of the image of God within us, that we possess the power to choose which direction we will bend. This ability to choose is, of course, complicated and sometimes compromised beyond repair by a myriad of other realities. Nevertheless, in the main, choosing the direction our lives will take, the direction any individual act of ours will take, is within our control.

The Isaiah passage we have for this 2nd Sunday of Advent gives us a poetic picture of the dream God dreams for the Creation. This image is, of course, highly—entirely, metaphorical and not remotely literal. These words show us what the world will feel like when God has God’s way and we have perfected the bent of our nature toward kindness:

"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. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11. 6-9)

Wolf-like people and lamb-like people will live together. Leopard like people and child-like people will rest together. Predators of all kinds—political, economic, sexual, will choose kindness and those accustomed to being preyed upon will lose their fear. In the world God dreams housing and health care will not be the right of the rich and the faint hope of the poor. In the world God dreams child health insurance programs will not be cancelled so that tax deductions for private jets can be kept in place. In the world God dreams snakes lose their fangs and their poison and become playmates for little children.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for (because—when—as soon as) the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Will this dream come true? Yes, of course. Because, as we read last week, “as the rain and the snow come down from heaven…so shall my word be… it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Is 55. 10-11).

Will it happen if we don’t bend toward kindness and peace?

Think of Christmas as God’s radical bend toward kindness to the whole world. Think of Advent as our time to consider which way we will bend when Christmas gets here.

Prayer: Creating God, you have called us to peace. You created us with the flexibility to bend that way. Guide us through this Advent awakening to a life that arcs toward kindness. Amen.

Isaiah 11.1-10

1 A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;

4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

6 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.

7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Luke 1: 26-38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

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