Readings (Year A):
Reflection: Bring about the Kingdom of God
In this time of Advent preparation, the voices of the prophets ring out. “On that day,” Isaiah tells us, “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”
Isaiah goes on to describe that day:
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
To our modern ears, and quite likely to Isaiah’s audience in the 8th century BCE, this scene seems unrealistic, far-fetched, and preposterous. I’ve not known the wolf and the lamb to be friendly cohabitors and, most surely, I won’t have my kids playing near a cobra’s nest. But the images presented today invite us to reflect on what it could look like when the spirit of the Lord rests upon us.
Today we also hear from John the Baptist, another prophet. We listen to John’s call to repentance and his reminder that God’s kingdom is near. With this prophecy, John takes his place at the end of a long line of prophets announcing the coming of the messiah. A line that includes the prophet Isaiah and ends with the arrival of Jesus, whose coming was foretold. John is not the messiah. He is not worthy, he says, and his baptism with water is not the same as the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
John’s call for repentance is a call of preparation; those who repent will bear fruit. And those who don’t repent, those that don’t bear fruit, will be cut down. What then might repentance look like for us? How do we turn from sin and await the coming messiah?
Our image from Isaiah gives us some insight as we consider what repentance looks like as a lived reality. The calf and the lion, the cow and the bear, are living in harmony. The lion and the ox eat together. It seems unthinkable, really.
The prophets give us the imagination for what is possible when convention, logic, or even good common sense tell us otherwise. They point the way to Jesus and prepare God’s people for the Kingdom that is at hand and still not fully realized.
We hear John the Baptist call us to repentance and hold onto this image from Isaiah. What are these prophets telling us about God’s Kingdom? To encounter others with whom we may not typically engage. To live in harmony with all God’s creatures. To share a meal with those we might consider an adversary. To commit to working toward peace and justice, seeking right relationships, even if it seems our actions will have little impact.
“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.”
May the spirit of God who is embodied in Jesus Christ be with us as we work toward bringing about the kingdom in this Advent season and always.