When I was small, my mother received a Christmas card that she loved. It showed simple silhouettes, in red white and gold, of a lion laid down with a lamb. The majestic strength of the lion held the vulnerable lamb, protected between its great paws. The tiny, fragile creature rested there in perfect trust… and, I have to wonder, of the two, which was the strongest?
Every year, for years thereafter, my mother tried to find something similar because, to her, the image symbolised what Christmas should be… a time of peace. The card meant so much to her that I remember it still, well over half a century later. The design was based upon the biblical saying that ‘the lion shall lay down with the lamb’, referring to a time of peace to come. These days, I know that no such saying exists in the Bible… that the closest is a verse from Isiah that speaks of the wolf laying down with the lamb… but there is much in the remembered image that speaks to the heart.
The heart is more than an organ at the centre of our lives, it is the seat of emotion and a centre of consciousness. Unlike the mind, it does not base its judgements on accuracy and fact, but on what it feels to be right and good. It might be fair to say that belief comes from the mind… for it always contains a choice… while faith arises in the heart where love rules and has its own intelligence.
People of many religions and paths, of many faiths and none, celebrate at this time of year. Whether their celebrations are based upon the love found at the heart of their family and community, the turning wheel of the year or a religious festival, the message is one of coming together, as the old year draws to its close and a new one is about to be born, in peace, hope and harmony.
At the centre of many of these celebrations is the symbol of a light, be it a star in the heavens or a flame against the midwinter darkness, and that flame can burn within every heart, regardless of the different paths we follow.
Such celebrations are meaningless, though, until we bring them into our lives and hearts. We can all choose the strength of the lion, to champion and protect those in need. We can be as strong as the lamb and place ourselves, vulnerable, between the paws of trust. We can each be a light against the darkness.
However, and whether, you celebrate Christmas, may today bring you peace.