Lorraine V. Murray / Commentary / The Georgia Bulletin / December 20, 2007
Talk about strange bedfellows. The wolf snoozing next to the lamb is my favorite Christmas image.
Ordinarily, of course, the wolf would be tempted to chow down on the tender flesh of the lamb.
And the lamb would run like mad to escape that hungry mouth.
But for once, the fuzzy guy and the wooly one surrender their agendas. The wolf ignores its hunger pangs. The lamb swallows its terror.
Scripture doesn't tell us for sure why the twosome is getting cozy. All Isaiah tells us is: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them." (11:6).
The little child, of course, is the central image. He is the one that Isaiah predicted would change the world.
Today, he is the one shown on Christmas cards, resting in the cozy manger, with angels singing his praises. The child who grew up to be called the Lamb of God, who died on the Cross out of love.
The wolf and lamb remind me of the many agendas that create conflicts in our own hearts. And how easily we pick up weapons, whether they are guns or words.
The battle lines in society are well-defined. Pro-life vs. pro-choice, conservatives vs. liberals, environmentalists vs. developers, atheists vs. believers.
Ironically, some people even lock horns over the naming of Christ's birthday. One side salutes the "winter holiday," while the other insists on Christmas.
Even a season that is supposed to be marked by peace can be embroiled in conflict.
There is a fellow who does the happy dance whenever there is a battle. He delights in dissension, whether it involves real rivers of blood-or streams of tears and shattered hearts.
Yes, it is the devil himself.
In the Gospels, he is described as slipping into Judas' heart right before that famous kiss.
Today the devil is still wheedling his way into our hearts and may work extra hard during a season honoring the one called the Prince of Peace.
Clearly, there is nothing amiss when we embrace particular social and political opinions. But when we resort to violence-in word or deed-to promote our agendas, we are dancing to the devil's tune.
We read too often about terrorists who explode buildings and crush lives, but there can be a subtler treachery lurking beneath the façade of ordinary life.
Getting confrontational with people who disagree with us just adds fuel to the devil's fire.
After all, if the wolves were to enjoy a cup of eggnog with the lambs, wouldn't the devil just hate it?
The wolf lying down with the lamb might mean talking with someone you normally avoid. Like the guy at work who is always passing around petitions promoting causes that you disagree with.
Or the neighbor whose religion you find distasteful or perplexing.
In families, the image of wolf and lamb may point to a feuding husband and wife, who may have divorced. On Christmas, can mom and dad put aside their differences?
For the sake of the children, can the parents share a meal with the family and refrain from arguing?
Wolf and lamb must both sacrifice something to peacefully co-exist. The wolf has to give up a natural tendency to hunt the lamb. The lamb must learn to trust.
To have peace at Christmas, we must try to relinquish old grudges. Erase ancient battle lines. And come to the table without hidden agendas.
The image of the peaceful twosome might inspire us to telephone the aunt we stopped talking to years ago. To smile at the beggar on the street we usually ignore.
And to say a prayer for the politician whose policies we detest.
On Christmas, the impossible comes true. To show his love for us, the mighty God dressed in the flesh of a little child.
The all-powerful God emptied himself to become human. He came into the world naked and helpless, as all children do, and he was little, meek and mild.
Christmas bids us to follow the Christ Child. To empty our hearts of grudges, angry words and violent impulses. And make room for mercy instead.
We may then glimpse the real meaning of Christmas. A little child shall indeed lead the wolf and the lamb, the husband and the wife, the sinner and the saint. Right into the heart of peace.