A charming local symbol of peace and hope for this new year

The lion and the lambHappy new year, dear readers! I hope that 2016 will be a year of good health and happiness for you all. And I hope that your Christmas season – remember, it’s not over until the Twelfth Day of Christmas has come and gone and we mark Epiphany on Jan. 6! – has been a peaceful and pleasant one.

Kitties and Raymond in the kitchen

Our kitties keeping an eye on Raymond (okay, Raymond’s feet) in the Manse’s tiny unrenovated pantry/kitchen. That’s Honey Bunny at top, and Teddy (Theodora) at bottom. They are good Manse kitties!

Certainly it has been for Raymond and me at the Manse; we enjoyed what was, for me at least, one of the best Christmases ever. It was just the two of us and our little kitty-cats, and we celebrated quietly with minimal gifts and maximum time spent making a lovely turkey dinner complete with flaming plum pudding, admiring our Christmas tree and the cards that so many friends had sent, and hanging out with the aforementioned kitty-cats, who really are the best ever. (If you would like to read the story of how one of them returned to us from a near-death experience, click here.)

Christmas dinner by candlelight at the Manse – just Raymond and me, and was it ever nice!

Christmas dinner by candlelight at the Manse – just Raymond and me, and was it ever nice!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what might make an appropriate topic for a start-of-the-year missive, and I finally settled on the delightful image that you see at the top of this post. It is a wall hanging that is in the sanctuary of St. John’s United Church in Tweed, which (for those of you from “away”) is a village not far from us here in Queensborough. Raymond and I attend services at St. John’s every now and again because it is one of two churches that, together with our own St. Andrew’s United in Queensborough, have formed a productive three-church arrangement to share the services and talents of our excellent minister, The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht. While most Sundays each of these churches has its own service, we join forces every now and again and all worship together at one of the three. And on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s, we did so at St. John’s.

Every time I visit that historic and welcoming church, my eye is drawn to the colourful hanging on the right-hand wall at the front of the sanctuary. At first (probably because of the dove carrying an olive leaf) it makes you think of Noah’s Ark, with all those critters gathered together: the zebra and the elephant, the giraffe and the koala, the panda and the tiger, the puffin and the – hey, what is that animal on the right, anyway? I’m thinking maybe a wolf. But then you realize that the two creatures front and centre are a lion and a lamb, and that the gentle little lamb is happily nestled in the mighty paws of the ferocious lion. And then you get the larger message, which is that it is a vision of a world that has become truly peaceful.

The story behind the wall hanging

The story behind the beautiful handmade wall hanging at St. John’s United Church in Tweed. “Peaceful Kingdom” – how lovely!

Now, I learned a couple of things from researching this post. (What? You think I just make all this stuff up? Okay, maybe it sounds like it sometimes. But I am a journalist, and therefore I do try to get my fact straight. And by the way, I appreciate it when readers point out where I’ve gone wrong.) One of those things is that the phrase “And the lion shall lie down with the lamb” is a misrepresentation of the actual verse from Isaiah in the Christian and Jewish scriptures. As you can see from the text that accompanies and explains the wall hanging at St. John’s, there is not a mention of a lion lying down with a lamb. And yet that’s the line we all know, and the image that Ken Fisher worked with when he made that beautiful piece of art for St. John’s United. And you know what? There is absolutely nothing (in my view, at least) wrong with that.

Another thing that I learned (though I kind of knew it already) is that the passage from Isaiah 11 on which the image in the wall hanging is based is regularly read in Christian churches during the Christmas season. In Year A of the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary (we are currently in Year C, by the way), it’s read on the second Sunday of Advent. So it ties in very nicely with this time of year.

“The lion shall lie down with the lamb” is a saying that over the centuries has become part of our everyday language because it is surely what we all wish for: That enemies can learn to become friends. That war will end. That we will finally figure out that we are all God’s creatures sharing God’s good Earth, and that we should – we must – work together to preserve that Earth and the species who live in it.

Or, as I like to say (not very originally): Can’t we all just learn to get along?

Which leads me to my thought and hope for myself and all of you for this new year of 2016: Let us all try to learn to just get along – recognizing our differences, and accepting them, and maybe even (one hopes) celebrating them.

If we all make that our mission for 2016, I think it will be an awfully good year. One for the ages!

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