“Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
Nothing much makes sense in today’s readings. As I was meditating on them this week, I was reminded of the Netflix TV show “Stranger Things” and the whole concept of “The Upside Down.” I don’t want to explain the concept any further to not spoil this really cool show, but in the readings today things appear to be upside down. We have wolves and lambs and calves and lions coexisting peacefully. This morning I was preaching to the children and I was reading this passage to them of these animals together, and after each pairing of animals I would ask if they could coexists. Some little ones kept repeating that they would “fight”. They used the word fight about three times to describe the relationship between predators and prey, which saddened me that our children were so accustomed to violence in our world. Our Lord comes as the Prince of Peace (a messianic title also used by Isaiah) to usher in an era of peace, to restore creation to what God had intended it to be in the book of Genesis.
So how do we get there? John the Baptist, the great figure of Advent, appears in the desert in today’s gospel and the first word he utters is “repent!” I asked the children if they knew what “repent” means and one little boy told me: “it’s turning away from sin…it’s turning away from the dark side to the light.” (The Dark Side! Imagine my delight with a Star Wars reference. This inevitably led to about three minutes of discussion with the children about the redemption of Darth Vader which was totally unplanned and awesome, but that’s what you do in children’s homilies: you let little children guide you!) So John asks us to repent and to make straight the path of the Lord. Why make straight? The problem with the path from our hearts to God’s divine will is that this path is much like Red Road here in Hialeah: too much construction and too many obstacles. Red Road just three blocks from here is a headache to traverse. Imagine those obstacles impeding our Lord from entering our hearts. The thing is that Jesus won’t force his way into our lives. We have to make straight his path, we have to remove the obstacles, and we are the ones that need to repent. Remember that in the nativity, people sought out Jesus, and this is where we are this Advent.
Jesus comes to make all things new and it begins with our hearts. We see all these animals peacefully coexisting in this beautiful passage from Isaiah. The commentary from this passage says: “The peace and harmony even among carnivores and their natural prey in this description suggest a paradisiac aspect of the reign of the new king. (NAB)” We long for that kingdom. It is the kingdom that John announces in the gospel. Now it is up to us to follow through on our prayer in the Our Father when we say “thy kingdom come.” And the beauty of Christmas as we seek out Jesus is that we’re not looking for strong and mighty kings. All we’re looking for is a Little Child to guide us.