Whenever Isaiah’s “Peaceable Kingdom” takes its turn in the lectionary rotation, I look forward to the opportunity to do something creative with the prophet’s vision of the world as God intends it. Wolves and sheep, the calf and the lion all living together equally and peacefully in a place safe enough for babies and toddlers to play. The imagery is so vivid, and so familiar to most children from storybooks, or trips to the zoo, that, unlike abstract theology or Assyrian geography, it’s a passage from the Bible that kids can readily imagine for themselves. But to help them along, and have a little fun too, we invented “Stuffed Animal Sunday” or “Stuffie Sunday” as plush animals are called in Canada.
On “Stuffed Animal Sunday” kids are invited to bring a stuffed animal to join them at church. When we first did this, and my girls were kindergarten age, I made sure these weren’t their very favorite stuffies just in case! Making sure that stuffed animals have name tags with their owners’ names will help visiting stuffies feel welcome and can help them reunite with those owners should said stuffies decide to go exploring!
To begin our time together, I let some of their children introduce their stuffed animals. We talked about things they like to do with their stuffed animals. Do they take them to visit grandma? Do they sleep with a stuffed animal? Of course they can do these things because their stuffed animals aren’t real bears, tigers, or aligators. Then I asked them, “But what if they were real?” What would happen here at church if the stuffies they brought were real? The children decided that the stuffed cat would be chasing Mickey Mouse and the Teddy Bears brawling in the aisles.
When the giggling subsided, we talked about the example God gave to Isaiah and how all the animals in the scripture passage were resisting the urge to fight one another, even if maybe they wanted to do just that. Instead, in the Bible story, the animals chose to live together in peace. They knew God and that God wants everyone to love each other and treat each other equally and with kindness. The best part, I told the children and stuffed animals, is that we are invited by God to join this “Peaceable Kingdom.” During Advent we recall the way God sent Jesus to be with us to help us and teach us how.
We ended our Children’s Chat by praying together asking God to help us chose to love one another and live at peace with one another. Being a tame tiger is hard, but we are thankful we have Jesus to show us the way to love and live together. Just like the animals in the vision God gave to Isaiah.