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alionalambToday’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah conjures up images of lions and lambs – or all kinds of animals – in a country scene, usually a forest glade, on Christmas cards. The text speaks of the time when there shall be no harm or ruin on all [God’s] holy mountain for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord. This is the same reading that gives Christian denominations a way to speak of the Holy Spirit as it enumerates the gifts the Spirit bestows: wisdom, understanding, counsel (right judgment), knowledge, strength (courage) and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe in God’s presence).* (IS 11:1-10) Interestingly, the reading speaks of a child as the center and motivating force of this peaceful existence and the gospel (LK 10:21-24) praises God for having revealed the “secrets” of the kingdom of heaven to the childlike rather than to the (perhaps purportedly) wise and learned.

Why all this as the chosen readings for the early days of Advent? Perhaps to call us to adjust the lens through which we look at the world. Little children do not usually live in fear but rather (until they are taught otherwise) move toward new experiences and encounters with people/animals, etc. The childlike are usually less self-conscious and less needy of approval, thus delight is a natural response to things. In other words, they (all of the above) open themselves to reality without judgment and are generally able to let go of bad experiences by living in the present moment. Of course, my generalizations here are broad and subject to claims of being wildly naïve. My point is only that I think we would do well to consider more willingness to accept difference instead of fearing it wherever we find it and to live each day with a positive attitude, using those spiritual gifts enumerated above as our guide. It can’t hurt and it might help to hasten the peaceable kingdom so lacking in the world of today.

*The words in parentheses are translations of Spirit-gifts in modern usage in some Christian denominations and the gift of reverence is a welcome addition to the other six.