Peace: A Radical Reconciliation and a New Real

Isaiah 11

“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.”

This is probably my favorite Advent passage – the beautiful poetry in the images of wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, calf and lion, and a…little child. It feels like the passages this year almost anticipate the next particularly with last week’s visions of peace, to me, seeming to be a basis for advent hope. And this week that vision of peace is fleshed out more in a way that makes my ache and longing more acute.

I love Kate Huey:

In his book, Peace, Brueggemann encounters the promises very personally: “Unheard of and unimaginable! All these images of unity sound to me so abnormal that they are not worth reflecting on. But then I look again and notice something else. The poet means to say that in the new age, these are the normal things. And the effect of the poem is to expose the real abnormalities of life, which we have taken for granted. We have lived with things abnormal so long that we have gotten used to them and we think they are normal.”

These are powerful words for this Advent season! Do we even dare hope that “the new normal” that we keep hearing about in this economic downturn could come to mean something very different from the order of things as they are now, that a very different world is possible? It’s become normal to hear about the death toll in Iraq (where hundreds died in bombings in November) and Afghanistan (a relentless death toll), to run a gauntlet of security measures just to board an airplane, to listen carefully for the description of the latest toxic toy (a “detoxified” world would definitely protect “the little ones” from our poisons)…so normal that we forget who we are, too, as children of God who have been promised better…

We’ve gotten used to this “normal,” this “real,” and it desensitizes me making me complacent and even tolerant – in the lukewarm, nonchalant sort of way. I want to be swept up in something bigger than me so that it kicks me out of bed each morning…something that doesn’t expect me to simply maintain the status quo but asks so much more of me…something that makes me feel like it is undeniably worthy of my life and attention.

This radical reconciliation speaks and feeds the Gospel to me…It’s not about peace with people who are like me but peace with people who I hate, I judge, I even wish were dead. I know it sounds harsh but these images couldn’t be more disparate, which to me makes the experience of reconciliation all the more poignant and glorious. This is the reconciliation God sought with me…with us…the most impossible peace…the most real.