Do not let babies play with venomous snakes. It does not take parenting books, care guidelines, or child protection policies to teach us that; the thought of a chubby infant arm reaching into the den of a coiled, poisonous serpent is enough to send a shudder up even the stiffest spine. Yet Isaiah gives us precisely this image of defenseless flesh meeting deadly power as an image of the fulfillment of God’s promise, of the very kingdom of God.

Isaiah’s prophetic vision announces an ideal leader and a kingdom in which all creatures live in harmony with one another, in which the calf and the lion and the lamb all lie down together. Christians know this image, sometimes called the Peaceable Kingdom, so well that it can start to seem sweet and simple. These are, however, pictures of tremendous risk; the defenseless and the deadly dwell together. All boundaries of “safety” and “threat” have been transformed. The Peaceable Kingdom offers possibilities for relationship where before there was only risk.

Until the Peaceable Kingdom comes in its fullness, it is probably wise not to let children play with vipers and cobras. In this season of Advent, however, we look toward the transformative power of an infant who reaches toward the dangerous, deadly, venomous violence of the world. As followers of Christ called to live into the kingdom of God, we too may have encounters with people, situations, and hard truths that send a shudder up our spine. We may feel that our vulnerable flesh, our weakness, is exposed to deadly powers. Where might our ideas of danger and defense need to be transformed? Where might risk give way to relationship in our lives?

God, set my imagination alight so that I may catch a vision of your prophetic promises. Help me not to cling to safety but to reach out in confidence toward a vision of your wild and risky kingdom. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 11:2-11

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Lectionary Week
December 2–8, 2019
Scripture Overview

The readings from the Hebrew scriptures look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah describes a root from the family of Jesse, that is the family of David, that will rule fairly and usher in an age of peace. The psalmist extols the virtues of a royal son who defends the poor and the oppressed and causes righteousness and peace to abound. Christians traditionally read these psalms as prophecies about Jesus Christ. Paul in Romans quotes several prophetic passages from the Hebrew scriptures, but he begins by emphasizing that those writings were given for our instruction. Christianity without the Hebrew scriptures lacks its foundations. Just as we prepare our hearts during Advent for the arrival of the Christ child, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus in Matthew.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 11:1-10. What appeals to you in Isaiah’s vision for The Peaceable Kingdom? What challenges you?
Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. Consider the ways you lead in your church, community, or work. How do you nurture the life God has created in these environments? How can you better lead toward God’s righteousness, justice, and peace?
Read Romans 15:4-13. How can you welcome others as Christ has welcomed you?
Read Matthew 3:1-12. How can you prepare yourself to accept a wild or risky proclamation of God’s kingdom?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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