In Isaiah 11:6-9 we read: The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together: and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
What a fantastic picture! It goes against all expectation. But that's where God takes us. I once nearly stood on a snake. It was in Costa Rica when my wife and I were there learning Spanish prior to our time in Panama. The snake was lying on the path basking in the sun. I was literally about to put my foot down on it when I noticed it. I wanted to stop and take a photograph, but Mary wouldn't let me - and she was probably right because, when I later described the snake to someone who knew about these things, it was made clear that if I saw another such snake I should steer well clear of it.
This poem is such a beautiful expression of the possibilities God offers us. And this is Christmas, God coming to earth. As Walter Brueggemann, the Old Testament commentator says: "The poet imagines a coming time .. when all relationships of hostility and threat ... shall be overcome. There will be conciliation and peaceableness. ... The poem is about deep, radical, limitless transformation in which we - like lion, wolf, and leopard - will have no hunger for injury ... no passion for domination." Dare we think about getting ready for that?
The image in this passage from Isaiah is of a game or safari park where no enclosures are necessary because the wild animals are no longer dangerous. Forget any idea of the lion or the leopard enjoying a hunk of meat. Forget those scenes of an animal killing its prey. The vision is of all creatures peacefully living together. It is a vision of a glorious future of caring and sharing. That’s what God’s Kingdom is like. God offers us a vision of peace and joy and love, and tells us that it is possible.
This is a season of a reminder of all that God makes possible. This season is a reminder that God came to earth in human form in the person of the baby Jesus. There are many amazing stories in the Bible, but is any more amazing than the story of nativity? What more wonderful story can we tell than that which is the account of God’s coming to earth to be with us? Perhaps the one that might rival it is that of the death and resurrection of our Lord – but without the birth, there could be no death.