On Animals and Advent

Yesterday in church we celebrated the coming Kingdom of Justice... and I was at pains to point out that, as with the concept of peace the previous week, the Hebrew concept of justice or righteousness is so much richer than ours, which is often reduced to a legal/judicial framework... I might come back to that later in the week as it is a live issue in this part of the world at present.
But one of the aspects that our limited understanding of justice/righteousness misses out on is the idea of the whole world order being put right again...
Every year my wife puts up an advent calendar... You might think that our boys are now beyond such things, but there is generally a scramble to see who gets to open the window each morning (even though there is no chocolate involved this year). I was mightily please however to see that this year's advent calendar includes a very prominent elephant (above)...
It reminded me of our 20th anniversary trip to Munich four years ago when the city was getting prepared for Advent and their  Christkindlmarkt, and everywhere there were nativity sets of all styles, sizes and sorts… Most of them had the usual suspects visiting Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus… angels, shepherds, wise men etc… but among the assortment of animals on parade were elephants… We didn't buy a nativity set including an elephant, but we did buy an elephant Christmas tree decoration to remind us... And it is once again on display with all the other eclectic decorations on our tree.
It seemed strange at the time, but really the elephant has as much right to be in on the nativity scene as the adjacent camels in our advent calendar. There are no mentions of camels in the Bible's account of Jesus' birth, nor of cattle (lowing or not); there is no suggestion that the shepherds brought their sheep with them to see Jesus nor is there any mention at all about the "little donkey..."
So, if cattle, sheep, donkeys and even camels have squeezed themselves into the stable (if there was a stable) then why not an elephant? Because scripture tells us that the whole of creation is waiting in eager expectation for the Kingdom of God to come in all its fullness (Romans 8: 18-21). And it can't come quickly enough as far as elephants are concerned... This week a conference on conservation and trade in endangered species, suggested that the continent of Africa could lose 20% of its elephant population within 10 years because of poaching and ivory smuggling. That needs to be put right... 
Earlier in the week a colleague was telling me that she had been asked about the Christian position on equal rights for chimpanzees... Not convinced about equal rights, but we as Christians do need to take more seriously humanity's role as stewards of  the earth... because frankly, we're doing a pretty poor job, and we, as Christians, are rarely at the forefront of the environmental movement... We are frequently ahead of the curve on issues affecting the poor in the developing world, and where their needs intersect with environmental concerns then we get involved, but sometimes we act as if it really doesn't matter because this world is going to be rubbed out and started again... But that isn't the picture painted in scripture... It is of a redeemed creation art peace with itself (See Isaiah 11: 1-10)
As I said in a post shortly after I returned from that Munich trip, 
The whole of creation (elephants included) is straining on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the coming Kingdom... and given the mess that we have made of it you would understand the eagerness...
Mind you, I don't anticipate seeing any elephants at a neighbouring church's live nativity next Saturday... Nor indeed a camel, even though there is one on their advertising leaflet...



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