(The Rev. Dr. Robert Garwig is Senior pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church, located at 10445 S.W. Canterbury Lane in Tigard. Sunday services are at 9 and 10:45 a.m., and 5:15 p.m.)
Preparing for Christmas is important work.
We write our gift lists on long and curled strips of paper. We circle the dates on calendars for concerts and parties. We inventory supplies like wrapping paper and scotch tape.
But there is one more preparation: welcoming Christ. It isn't simple, because if Christ should come this Christmas I wonder how we would receive Him. Would the militarists not call the one who urges us to return good for evil a cowardly pacifist? Would the nationalists among us call him a dangerous subversive because he said we are of one flesh? Would the liberals among us reject him as a dreamy visionary because he told us to take no thought for the morrow?
Surely church officers would charge him as a ranting heretic because he cuts through ritual and tradition - commanding us only to love God and neighbors. Wouldn't the sentimentalists call Jesus a cynic because he warned us that the way to salvation is narrow and difficult? He would be despised by puritans because he would still eat and drink with sinners. The sensual among us would scorn him because he would still fast. The proud and powerful would laugh at him, since he would insist that modern disciples take the role of the least important. The worldly, wise and educated would be aghast to hear that we cannot be saved except as we become as children.
One person who prepared for and received Christ was Edward Hicks (1780-1849), who was a Quaker, religious leader and painter. Abandoned by his surviving father at age seven, Hicks grew up outside of Philadelphia, apprenticed to a coach maker. Impressed with the Quaker application of the gospel to questions concerning slavery and the treatment of the indigenous people of Pennsylvania, Hicks became a Christian and a member of the Society of Friends. At this time he began to express his faith in formalized painting.
He created a picture (reproduced more than seventy times) titled Peaceable Kingdom, based upon Isaiah 11:6 (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.)
In the landscape, the animals mentioned are amicably congregated and focused on a child playing in their midst. In the background is a representation of William Penn making a peace treaty with indigenous people and deciding how to share the land eventually called Pennsylvania. Hicks combined Biblical hope with historic memory as an encouragement to practice peace (wholeness of body, mind and spirit) as individuals and a society at large.
In a turbulent time, Hicks showed us how to prepare Him room: forgive an enemy, open your home to a stranger, soften one word, obey your conscience.
Wage peace with Christ this month and you'll find your heart filled and guided by Jesus for a lifetime.