“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).
There is a war raging in my backyard and I am losing. A couple of years ago we cut down a huge sweetgum tree in the backyard. I was happy to see it and its spike-ball seed pods gone. We cut it down and ground down the stump below the grass line. To all appearances that tree was dead and gone. But after some time had passed, and after the rains had come, from below the surface of the ground, the roots still survived. That dead and buried stump was not as dead as it seemed for from it continues to sprout new shoots from that sweetgum tree. Those sprouts remind me of Isaiah 11.
On Sunday, Pastor Royce commented on how this passage almost seems like it’s describing a fairy tale: the lost battle is not as lost as it seems, the dead kingdom is only mostly dead, the promised prince will return as king and set wrongs to right, and everything sad will be made untrue. The reason it sounds like a fairy tale is because all the best stories have their roots in the truth. Advent is about longing and anticipation. Advent is about the groaning before the birth. Advent is about the waiting that precedes the fulfillment. Advent is about what Romans 5:5 calls “hope that does not disappoint.”
As Christians we look back at the bleakness of Isaiah’s situation with the hindsight of knowing that God wasn’t done with the line of Jesse and that the branch that would bear fruit is Jesus. Believers that lived in Isaiah’s day did not have that benefit. They had hope and faith. But we need hope and faith too as we wait for the Second Coming of Christ into this world. Things may seem dark and hopeless, but we wait in hope for Christ to return and finish what he started.
So let’s wait in hope and flourish our waiting with joy. Let us mock the night with Christmas lights and carols. Let us rejoice with laughter and song at the absurdity of God taking on human flesh and being born of a version. Let’s hang ornaments on evergreens to remind ourselves that God’s promises never die, and his goodness never fails. Let’s look up into the dark winter sky and see God’s promises shining in the stars and know that one day the fairy tale will be a reality. The not yet will become the already, and every tear will be wiped away from our eyes. Maranatha. Amen.