Rejoice: Fourth Week of Advent (Scholar’s Compass)

Nan Thomas shares the fourth of her Sunday Advent reflections on these themes: hope, prepare, watch, and rejoice. Nan is deeply thoughtful about spiritual formation, a topic she pursues as an InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries staff member and as Associate Director of Faculty Development at Union University. In addition, Nan was part of the founding team that imagined the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) and made it a reality. We’re grateful for her ongoing advice and encouragement, and for this Advent series.


Scripture                  

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. —Isaiah 11:1-10 (ESV)

Reflection

As we continue to wait and listen in Advent, we hear the extraordinary promises once again in our ordinary lives. There is one coming on whom God’s spirit rests. He will be filled with wisdom and understanding, a righteous judge whose delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. His righteousness and faithfulness will cause amazing things to happen. The wolf shall live with the lamb and a little child shall play near danger and not be destroyed. His dwelling shall be glorious! Just imagine the possibilities: the one who comes from the root of Jesse has the capacity to turn the world upside down and make all things new. This promise is great cause for rejoicing, even as we wait. Waiting and rejoicing often go together in our ordinary lives as we anticipate the fulfillment of big and small promises: engagement and the anticipation of waiting for marriage, conception and awaiting birth, being there for someone when they are expecting you, putting forth effort now and anticipating future benefit. At the same time, waiting and rejoicing in the promise are not the same as celebration.

A few years back my Christmas Eve was delightfully filled with orchestrating all the cooking, baking, and hosting for a dozen or more folks. At 10:00 pm my son and I showed up at my Anglican church for our Christmas Eve service. As I entered the nave I was taken aback by the all the beautiful red and white flowers and candles announcing that the waiting of Advent was over and the celebration of Christmas was beginning. What a gift. Here was an aspect of preparation that I had nothing to do with. All I could do was sit back, take it all in, and receive. And if that wasn’t enough, the service began with a thirty-minute musical prelude, before the procession began. As we sat there, my adult son asked “what are we waiting for?” I replied, “For Christmas to begin!” In all my years of preparation during Advent, never before had the demarcation been so clear. Advent is not Christmas. As the waiting ended and the doors burst open, then the procession began the service singing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!”

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, you have promised that a root will come from the stump of Jesse and your spirit will be upon him filling him with wisdom and understanding.

Oh Lord, may we live in light of this promise.

And his delight will be in the fear of the Lord.

Oh Lord, may we live in light of this promise.

He will be a righteous and faithful judge.

Oh Lord, may we live in light of this promise.

He will cause the earth to be full of the knowledge of the Lord.

Oh Lord, may we live in light of this promise and proclaim this promise to a weary world.

Purify our consciences by thy daily visitation, that when thy Son our Lord cometh he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.—Fourth Sunday of Advent (Book of Common Prayer)

Reflection Exercise

Spend a little time reflecting on how the fruit of spiritual discipline practices shows up in ordinary life. As we intentionally hope during Advent we become more hopeful people and less inclined to cynicism. Our preparation makes us more likely to receive from God and from others, not needing to always be the giver. As we watch and pay attention to God’s work in our lives we are more able to live in the present where our real lives are happening. Our rejoicing in the promises of God deepens our celebration.

Let every heart, prepare him room.

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Nancy Thomas

Nancy Flack Thomas has been on InterVarsity staff for twenty-seven years and currently serves on the Faculty Ministry leadership team of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, with a particular focus on staff training and spiritual formation and discipleship. She also serves as the Associate Director of Faculty Development and previously as an adjunct professor of political science at Union University, a Christian liberal arts university in West Tennessee. Through each of these positions Nan seeks to encourage Christian faculty in their spiritual and professional journeys.

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