3rd Sunday of Advent

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

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.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11: 1-9

In this passage, the prophet Isaiah preaches a message of hope.  Picture in your mind’s eye, an image of a rock cliff.  Many of us perhaps have seen a rock cliff on a trip to the western part of the Tar Heel State maybe in the mountains, maybe off of the side of a hiking trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Continuing on in this mental image, we see on this rock cliff, a tree growing out from the rock face.  This tree is in fact a shoot growing out from a broken stump.  It’s a hard landscape, one that doesn’t particularly lend itself towards the best growing environment.  The rock is hard and jagged with only sparse pockets of soil. The plant yearns towards the sunlight, pushing upward, leaning out from the face of the rocky cliff; its growth is slow and deliberate with clear intentions.

This passage reminds us of hope during this Advent season.  In this season of hope, we see that Isaiah links the past with the hope of growth into the future for all of God’s people.  Advent is a time in our lives to search and grow towards the light of Christ.  There may be places in our lives where we may be resting uneasy or we feel insecure, but rest assured the spirit of God is ever present in our lives.

There may be times where it is sometimes tough to see if anything could possibly grow out from the hard places in our lives; perhaps from a place or relationship that may have broken off; finding a root hold and searching for nutrients to feed our spiritual growth. You may be there now — at that place where you feel that hope is cut off, where loss and despair have hardened your heart. But even on this cliff; even in the hard places of our lives, God is with us; sitting with us, nurturing us and breaking through the hardness of our lives as a sign of hope; a sign of new life in an otherwise broken world.

The message in this passage is one of hope and vision because it tells us where God is and it tells us where God is taking us.  God shows us a world of peace, where we pray daily, weekly and even seasonally for our creation and all it creatures.  We pray with courage that God continues to show us a world of peace where people and rulers care for one another, for the poor and those who are in need; we pray for the peaceable kingdom where all of God creatures would live together in harmony with each other.  Advent is a season of hope indeed.

A prayer for this day:
Loving God, we have heard your call to live as one body in this season of hope. We thank you for your Son, the head of the body, our hope and our strength. We praise you for your Spirit, who works to make us one. Now as we are called to live into a life of work, fellowship, and leisure, we pray for the grace to live together in harmony. We pray for imagination to find ways to strengthen our unity in Christ. We also pray for courage to carry out these commitments in a spirit of joy in this Advent season, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Rev. Ed Johnson (M. Div., 2014)
Pinetops Presbyterian Church
Pinetops, NC

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