Thursday, December 24, 2020

In His Realm of the Wolf and Lamb

A Christmas Reflection from Julie

The wolf will live with the lamb; 
the leopard will lie down with the young goat. 
The calf and the lion will graze together, 
and a little child will lead them.

When I think of Isaiah 11:6, I’m struck that the radical images of reconciliation and peace are meant to astound us. This is not a picture of a random, innocuous moment of contact between enemies. This is a picture of sustained life together. Could reconciliation and consequent vulnerability this radical be possible?

 It’s a truth I ponder regularly because I have spent a lot of my life building up a lot of personal protections. Protecting oneself from questionable people, and scary places was a running theme for me growing up. I’ve learned that this is a very human way of making shalom for oneself. But it is like a rickety, tenuous little shalom shanty compared to what we could be resting in. Still, in my life, I learned to protect myself. I have worn protective layers and have often been concerned about many dangers both real and imagined.

 Then, Jesus arrived in my life like a fountain in the desert. Meeting Him was like “waking up from the longest dream” for me (thank you, Keith Green, for that image). And He began what has become a lifelong process of gently peeling off layer after protective layer. I had so many layers that I really couldn’t have described to you what I thought or felt about many things, especially anything somehow threatening. This labor of His in my life has been the most pivotal process of my life, a foundation that grows deeper and more alive with each passing year.

Yet this year has definitely challenged all of us, myself included, around the globe in how we protect ourselves... from what, and from whom. Fear of the unknown, and distrust and frustration with others have dominated both news cycles and conversations.

It begs the question again. Is it truly possible that I can lay down my protective layers in order to embrace the much better shalom of Jesus? Could I really be safer by laying down my own shortsighted ways of protecting myself, my barriers and my own masks, and live out the extraordinary gift of redemption and reconciliation I have with Him?

Will I not be so much safer allowing Him to bring peace His way?

Looking into the Gospel narratives, a reader can find that God’s way was to put Himself into the most vulnerable place possible, entering into human poverty and want, and entering this too in the most vulnerable position possible, as a tiny, dependent infant. And this? ...THIS... was the beginning of the most unbelievable movement of Shalom reconciliation that ever existed on earth.

Am I safer in the Shalom of Jesus, open and vulnerable before others? Yes, because I have been redeemed and so strongly embraced by Emmanuel, God with Us.  The Gospel message proclaims that it is possible to enter His Shalom, a Shalom that allows wolves and lambs to be at peace, to live daily with one another, all because Jesus came into a world that did not know Him, to pay for the sins of those who did not esteem or even care a whit about Him, to bring many people into the deep Shalom of intimate relationship with God.

It’s a radical thought.