Isaiah 11 (RSV)
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And 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;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist,
and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall feed;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
We read in Isaiah 11, that the stump of Jesse will sprout. We take this to mean that Jesus is prophesied to be born from the remains of Jesse’s family tree.
Usually, when a tree is chopped down, we kind of figure that it is finished. Things don’t always work out the way we figure.
This reading appeals to me for the vision of absolute safety and peacefulness it presents – a complete lack of danger, threat, chaos or turmoil. I find this a refreshing antidote to the morning paper and the news of tragedy, armed struggle, disaster and violence we hear so often. Peace.
In Advent, we look back in order to look forward. Advent recalls looking forward to the arrival of The Messiah. and look how he shows up:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 RSV
A chopped down tree, a baby – these seem like weak openings, small ways to start. God chooses surprising ways to begin. In the beginning, The Beginning – at the creation of the universe God spoke – he ‘said’.
A friend who is expecting SOON was wearing sweatshirt last night that has some words from Something’s Coming from West Side Story: “Something’s coming, something good.” That feels like the message of Advent – The message of Christmas, too: Something’s coming, something good.
I wonder what he wants to say to us? I wonder what he wants to do / begin in us as something small
Isaiah 9:2 – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
When I think of Advent, one of the strongest images I have is that of light shining into a dark place. A friend remarked on Facebook that the next weeks are the darkest time of the year, and that she doesn’t like that. At this time of year when daylight and sunshine seem scarce, the seasonal changes seem like an extended metaphor for Advent. We long for the light; for the susnhine, and when it shines, as it did today a few times, it is so welcome. That has got to be one of the reasons why Advent is celebrated / observed at this time of year.
I read in Isaiah 9:2-7 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” This is more than a lack of solar radiation. Advent is not just suffering for those of us who cannot make it to Hawaii. Many people are living in ‘deep darkness’. Situations and circumstances seem utterly hopeless. In Advent we celebrate the birth of Jesus as the light shining into the darkness of this world. The writer of Matthew, in the New Testament quotes 9:1-2 in Matthew 4:12-17 when Jesus begins his preaching ministry. In John 1:5 we read that the “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus’ light is not absorbed by the darkness – it extinguishes the darkness.
This is a poem that I wrote for Advent in 2009. I posted it last Lent, on April 2, 2012. Sorry for the rerun, but it fits right now.
When we sat in darkness,
You came to us in light.
When we lived in helplessness,
You came to us at night.
Yet you were not what we expected.
We had hoped for something else.
God, you came to us the unexpected saviour.
We waited for a warrior;
You came the Prince Of Peace
We sought a mighty power
Which would set our captives free.
You are not what we’d expected;
Helpless babe in young girl’s arms
Lord, you came to us an unexpected saviour.
We sought an end to poverty
You preached to us good news
We wanted vindication
Forgive me if I seem confused.
You are not what I expected
I had prayed for something else
You came to me an unexpected saviour.
Jesus, yes an unexpected saviour.
I long for ease and comfort
You expose my naked soul
And the life I’ve built so carefully
Tear down to make me whole.
You upset my money tables,
Drive my demons into pigs
You are not what I’d expected in a saviour.
Jesus, Heavenly Father,
Holy Spirit, Lord of Lords,
My dreams and hopes and wishes
Are idols I can ill afford.
Come to me so unexpected
Take my rags, but make me yours.
I welcome you Lord Jesus, unexpected Saviour!
JM November 2009
December 1 2012
Here begins Advent – a time between – between Autumn and Winter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, between not yet here and already come.
I also think of Advent as sort of the Winter Lent.
As a kid, Advent meant that we opened small doors on a glitter-infested picture, called an advent calendar. It was a formalized countdown to Christmas. For me it served to build excitement and anticipation for the eventual arrival of Christmas.
For me, Advent means that it is a legitimate time of the year to bring out Christmas carols. But not before we sing a few Advent hymns.
The hymn by Charles Wesley, which we sing to a couple of wonderful old hymn tunes; Stuttgart and Hyfrydol . Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus has a verse reminding us of the long anticipation of waiting for the Messiah and one that looks forward to the end – when Jesus finishes our rescue, and we are home with him.
Come, thou long expected Jesus
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
I have difficulty in getting into the spirit of waiting for Jesus to be born. Here’s why:
- I know that Jesus was born – amazing! that the Creator, The One who created the world, would limit and wrap himself in created flesh in order to make himself known to his rebellious people.
- I know of his life on earth and his execution and burial.
- I know that after that, he appeared to many people alive.
- I know that some 40 days later, he went up from the earth and disappeared into clouds. The people who were there were told that he would come back in a similar fashion, someday.
- I know that Jesus is alive and ruling, and that his work is finished, and that he is still is working through his Holy Spirit and people who listen to him.
- And I know that he is planning to come back to earth and gather us up and take us home to be with him.
– and I know that to people who don’t know Jesus, all that sounds pretty weird….
So in Advent, what are we anticipating? What’s the deal?
For what, or for whom are we waiting?
Is there something that you want Jesus to do?
Is there something that Jesus is saying to you?
Is there something that seems hard to believe?
I suggest that we stop and think about those things, and pray – talk to Jesus. Here is how you do that: “Jesus, is there something that you want to say to me?” or “Jesus, I find _______ hard to believe.” or just talk with him. He doesn’t need us to have everything figured out – or to have all the right words.
(the name, in a way sanitizes what happened),
Jesus’ death; painful, unjust, undeserved- is what Lent has been all leading towards. We say that ‘Jesus died on a cross for the sins of the world’, but that hardly captures it.
My words are inadequate. Tomorrow, I am going to:
– attend a Good Friday service at a local church,
– read some of the Bible sections that tell about the crucifixion
– see some friends
– marvel at the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice
See you on Easter!