By Scott Blair
I can remember a trip to the library one day in first grade. The librarian had planned a lesson about art and interpretation and that morning showed us, “The Peaceable Kingdom” by Quaker Edward Hicks painted about 1843. The librarian asked us questions about the various animals who would normally assume the roles of prey and predator but here were lying next to one another in peace. The lion and lamb together, cow and bear shared feed, even children play among all of the predators. I remember feeling that this image must be an unreachable dream; it could never happen in real life because an animal cannot go against its own instincts. Yet Isaiah and Hicks sees this dream as a reality when a branch from Jesse comes into our world. All of our assumptions, all our laws, even laws of nature will be challenged and turned upside down in the name of peace. The result of Jesse’s Branch will be justice and righteousness. Ultimately the result is peace. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine our world with the possibility of peace. We face fearful challenges and respond to daily headlines that seem chaotic. This Peaceable Kingdom remains a mirage. But what the Incarnation brought about was the possibility for the dream to become a reality. The reality of peace came through Jesus and it continues to flow through his followers. As Christians we must allow our natures to be changed. Peace begins with Jesus but he entrusts us to use our words, our hands, our feet to bring it about. May we have the courage to approach the lions and serpents and lie next to them.