Isaiah 11:1-10

Have you seen the Travelers Insurance commercial? All these animals – predators and prey – are singing and dancing around a watering hole. An ostrich plays tag with a lion, hawks sit on top of a leopard, and meerkats go rafting on a crocodile. The voice-over comes on: “When you’re not worried about potential dangers, the world can be a far less threatening place. Take the scary out of life with [Our] Insurance, and see the world in a different light.”

Did you know that was biblical? Not the part about selling you insurance, necessarily, but the singing, dancing food chain. That’s straight out of Isaiah. It’s a vision of the coming kingdom of God, the way life will be when David’s anointed descendant arrives. When “justice and integrity” rule the people, there’s nothing to fear. The poor and helpless have their rights defended, evil will disappear, and the strong will no longer prey on the weak.

With all due respect to insurance companies and their ad agencies, that’s not the kind of thing that (even very good) insurance can make happen. Truth in advertising would show the lion taking down that zebra, but then a person with a red umbrella would show up to give you a new zebra. So that’s better than the alternative, I suppose, but it’s not Isaiah’s vision, and it doesn’t ultimately keep me from worrying about “potential dangers.” In fact, just about nobody is more concerned about potential dangers than an insurance company, because they’re the ones who get stuck with the tab.

Now, I have insurance on my property and my health and my life, and I lock my car and take other appropriate safeguards for living in this world, but as Isaiah would remind us, the world isn’t there yet. God isn’t done creating a world where fairness, righteousness, and the knowledge of the divine are the guiding principles of daily life. We know all too well what it is to judge by appearance and hearsay. We still struggle to find ways to decide in favor of the poor or stand up for the helpless. No sooner do we come across a chance to express our faith in service, love, or commitment than we start wondering about the hazards and liabilities that line the way.

But we know one person who gladly lived without insurance, who didn’t give a second thought to the dangers – potential and very real – that stood before him. We affirm Jesus as the promised king from among David’s descendants, the one who was filled with God’s wisdom by the Holy Spirit. He gave himself, freely and unreservedly, to the hard, joyful, transformative work of building peace and justice in this world. He invested his life in serving the sick and the poor. He made places at the table for anyone who was hungry. He intentionally looked past the human differences that we take as signs of potential danger, and he showed us the rich blessing of being God’s people together.

And he’s ready to be born in us again. He’s ready to sprout anew from the dead stumps in our lives, to reconcile our hurts and divisions, to fill us with the deep wisdom of God. We’ll probably be surprised, unsettled, even shocked at the way justice and integrity look when we see them, but Jesus never claimed to fit inside our ways of doing things. Instead, he invites us to do things – even one little thing, just for a start – the way he would do them. The way God would have it be. May such a spirit of wisdom and courage fill us this Advent.