Isaiah is on a bit of a theme here in Advent and we might want to pay attention. Last week he spoke of swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. This week it is ferocious beasts lying peaceably beside their normal prey. One might think that Isaiah is just being poetic here and we should take his words with a metaphorical grain of salt. He is speaking of grand themes, not real things. And yet, these images speak to a longing within our human hearts. If we do not feel that longing, it is only because we have become jaded and cynical, not because the longing is not there. We have become numb to just how broken this world really is. We imagine that wars are normal behavior and a world which operates with death as one of its organizing principles is the only way it could be.
We need this Jesus to come and rescue us. He came long ago in a stable and laid upon His mother’s lap. He preached and healed and taught. He died and rose again so that He might come another day to make these visions of Isaiah real and tangible for us. How shall we preach these things without either sounding like some dreamer who has lost touch with reality or some snake oil salesman who is pandering to the foolish ideas of simple people? How shall we call our people, all of them, to yearn for that Jesus and look for His coming with eager expectation?
Of course, we shall not do this. The Spirit of God shall do this, but we will need to find a way to talk about that, preferably in a way which does not make His work harder. While we do not seek to offend the sensibilities of our hearers, we also do not always need to be too sensitive to them. John the Baptist certainly wasn’t preaching for applause. Read his sermon carefully. It is filled with teeth and hard words. Isaiah’s words are almost the opposite, filled with visions of heavenly perfection. Both of them can be a challenge for us. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance this week.