Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Peaceable Kingdom

Lifted from last year, which was lifted from three years ago. Hey, at least it's something!

First Tuesday of Advent
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Luke 10:21-24

"You have revealed them to the childlike." Of course … it's obvious. Probably one of the oldest children's games is "Hide and Seek." Kids love it, and are great at it. Why? Because they see things differently. Where an adult would see an old rotting decayed tree stump, a child's eye is caught by the swirling pattern, the creeping bugs, the tiny little flower growing up from the wood. Where an adult would see someone from the "wrong" family, a child sees only a playmate. Kids don't discriminate, don't judge from appearances; they don't get bogged down in complexities. They see things as they are, and their simple perspectives often give profound insights to the grownups in their midst.

Not to overly humanize the animals of today's first reading, but … a lamb hanging out with a wolf? The poor little innocent creature, doesn't it know it's going to get eaten that way? Doesn't it know any better? Perhaps, though … being too young to be overly set in its ways of judging, the small creature's innocence allows it to be more open to the wolf. And maybe, just maybe, the naïve trust of the lamb, its confidence in the wolf … maybe it makes the wolf stop and think. After all, everyone else runs away from him. They cower in terror at his big terrible fangs. But this little quivering fluffball, without even any claws with which to defend itself, the creature with the most need of such fear, is not afraid? Not only is it not afraid, but the lamb has actually invited the wolf as guest? No one has ever shown such a kindness, such hospitality, to the wolf before. And so maybe, just maybe, the wolf begins to rethink itself, to rethink how it views the world. Maybe then, that leads to a shift in the behavior of the wolf. The empty space allowing the freedom to change has been offered; the innocence of the child opens the door for the conversion of the adult.

The child, then, presents a unique perspective, seeing that which we grownups overlook. We see the fangs, they see the fur. We see the stump, they see the sprout. We often speak of new life coming from the wood of the cross, but how many of us notice the new life coming from the wood of a stump?

"With a little child to guide them." If we follow their lead, follow their example … maybe then we, too, can set aside judgments, giving others permission to grow and change. Maybe then we, too, can notice the details of God's movement in our life, rather than dismissing it as an old cut-down tree. Maybe then we, too, can see the new life springing from death.

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