6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah describes an idyllic vision of earth that brings back imagery from the perfect Eden that God first created in Genesis. In the beginning, we were given the gift of Eden where we could commune with God, enjoy the earth, and be in relationship with one another.
Through a series of many sins, we find ourselves in a flawed world that barely resembles the original creation at the time of this passage. For modern day Christians, we have the benefit of seeing the whole story laid out neatly in books, chapters, and verses. We know that this “shoot of Jesse” is a man named Jesus who was born to Mary and Joseph, and on Christmas we celebrate the miracle of His birth. However, we also know of the suffering and death that will be inevitable in the life of this newborn. The bible is full of moments where hope and tragedy meet in a beautiful tension, and this is one of them.
While this faultless vision gives us a glimpse of the end result, it can’t be examined without knowing the cost. As we see the wolf and lamb lie together, we know the sin of humans that took this perfect world away initially. When we see the baby lying in the manger, we know the imminent sacrifice that will be made on our behalf. Since the whole story of the Bible is tied together in an intricate design, when we celebrate Christmas, we don’t just celebrate the birth of a child, we rejoice for the God that has followed us all through this narrative. We celebrate his patience, justice, love, generosity, peace, and faithfulness to a people that don’t deserve it. And yet, on Christmas, despite any disobedience of ours, we will still receive the greatest gift in the form of an infant knowing the hope of what is to come.
Contributed by Maggie Smith