By Rev. Karen Hernandez,
Pastor of Living Hope Kuna United
When I picture “peace,” kids at Christmas do not usually come to mind! (Right, parents? Right, teachers?) There is, however, a notable exception:
When I was a kid, the angel chimes were a favorite among the Christmas decorations. Those chimes were part of an important family tradition. Did you have them? When I bought my first full-size Christmas tree, I also bought angel chimes. I still have them, but they’re so disappointing that I don’t even take them out of the box! It’s a not a matter of “they don’t make ’em like they used to”; rather the problem is that I grew up.
The chimes don’t ring out with beautiful music anymore because I have far too much background noise in my life. The angels don’t fly as fast nowadays because my world is moving at break-neck speed. Four small candles pale in comparison to so many other lights distracting me now. The chimes that I was taught were fragile or “breakable,” just seem cheap. I no longer equate shiny with beautiful, listen for angel songs, or have a keen sense of wonder. As I got bigger, the world got smaller and less impressive, more complicated but less interesting.
About 700 years before the birth of Christ, God uses the prophet Isaiah to give us hints about this incredible gift on its way to us. In Isaiah 11:1-9, the prophet describes what we’ve come to call “the peaceable kingdom.” There justice reigns, the needy and the suffering will be lifted up, danger and anger and violence will be unheard of, and even the food chain will cease to exist, “and a little child will lead them,” he promises.
From the moment of his birth, that little child does lead, with the kind of power that only a first-born child can have. (One cry and at least the twelve people closest to a baby direct their full attention to the child!) When it comes to this baby, that command of attention is far greater: King Herod is so threatened by this infant that he terrorizes a region. The stars break from their normal pattern in dramatic fashion, filling wise men with so much wonder that they travel great distances. Heaven cannot contain all the joy, so angels spill out and sing to a ready audience of sheep and shepherds in the fields.—All because this promised child is born!
That child has come and gone. So why aren’t we living the promised “peaceable kingdom”?
Perhaps, like Herod, we’re afraid of losing the power we think we have and fail to see—much less seek—the power of vulnerability and humility. Maybe we’re unwilling to wander so far from home as the wise men did. We’re so inundated with blinking, flashing, attention grabbing lights that it’s awfully hard to see the Christ light.
When God was ready to fulfill that promise of peace, God became a child. God in God’s fullness and wisdom took the form of a child. Rather than anointing another king to declare peace or sending a warrior to wield a sword and demand peace, God personally came to bring peace, to offer peace, to be peace.
Here we are, two millennia after that promised child of peace and peace eludes us still. God was “the little child who would lead us,” and I believe God uses children, the littlest ones, to lead us still. So I have to wonder if just maybe we could move a step closer to the peaceable kingdom if we would allow a child (or children) to lead us. What if we were joyful even with so much darkness in the world? What if grown-ups risked being hopeful even though we know of dire poverty and hunger and the lack of clean water and healthcare?
If you need a specific place to start, I suggest you find a child who’s still young enough to hear angel songs. Then sit in candlelight with that child until you see the child’s light shining brighter than the candle. Then keep watching until the same light shines within you.