“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.” We heard these words from Isaiah 11 in worship together this past Sunday. We listened as the prophet painted for us a picture of the kingdom of heaven, God’s vision of peace for all of creation.
This past week has not been a peaceful one in our world. Not only are there conflicts raging in the Middle East and unrest fomenting in Hong Kong, but there is division and anger in our own country. When a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, passed down its decision not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown, there were tears and protests all over the country. We have been surrounded this week by evidence of our own mistrust and dividedness.
Regardless of how you feel about all of these conflicts in our world, we cannot help but see how easy it is for human beings to draw into our camps and label “the other” as our enemy. Tragedies like the one in Ferguson unearth our divisions and make us face the truth about our human nature: it is easier to hate than to love. It is easier for us to deal with people as stereotypes than as children of God.
Sometimes I get very cynical about us human beings. When I read the headlines, I can get deeply discouraged. I tell myself that we as a human race have made no progress at all. As we have been reading through the Old Testament together this fall, it seems that we human beings keep running into the same problems over and over again. Are we any closer to the kingdom of God? Have we learned anything at all?
Then, in the midst of these questions and doubts, I see a sign of hope. I don’t know if you saw it, but there’s a photo that went viral this week. It’s a picture of a 12-year-old African-American boy hugging a white police officer. The boy, Devonte Hart, was part of a peaceful protest and was holding up a sign that said, “Free Hugs.” The police officer, Sgt. Bret Barnum, saw that Devonte was crying and motioned for him to come closer. They hugged.
I think this photograph went viral because it is a much needed sign of hope. The boy and the police officer represent who all of us want to be. They show what Love can do in the midst of anger and brokenness and division. “And a little child shall lead them.”
The good news of Advent and Christmas is that God is coming into the world. Into the midst of this very world that we live in–right into our brokenness and our mess and our conflict–God comes. Watch for signs of hope! Be open to Love in our midst! Lead the way to reconciliation! The kingdom of God is drawing near!