Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.And the Spirit of the Lord will 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.In that day the heir of David’s thronewill be the banner of salvation to all the world.The nations will rally to Him,and the land where He lives will be a glorious place.— Isaiah 11:1-2, 10
What matters is not the chopped-off stump. It isn’t what Old Testament Messianic hopes of what appears to be cut down, cut off or cut out.
The surprising part which matters is–the seemingly insignificant beauty of a tender, new shoot of life–is actually brimming with phenomenal promise. A tree-to-be is now born.
Out of the very last, nearly forgotten son of Jesse comes forth one tender branch whose destiny is a myriad of images; a crown of thorns, a wooden cross, our latter back to God. This Branch, otherwise known as Jesus the Messiah, spares no expense in spanning impossible lengths to bring you back to your Creator, your God.
Who could have guessed that even before the first tree was ever created, He picked out this ancient stump to stun the wise? Which secular philosopher, which religious scholar of that historical era, could have even grasped the overwhelming significance of this lone, tender, sprouting, prophetic twig?
What? A twig which morphs into a Kingdom scepter?
Yes, the miraculous rod of Moses is no match for this twig. This twig is a redemptive twig, one that crushes the power and penalty of human sin.
Out of the most unlikely comes such a tender and vulnerable shoot.
To silence the most brilliant of mortal minds, the Almighty deliberately chooses the inconceivable to conceive a Child from a Virgin, and Son of God. Beyond the paper chase from other trees, beyond Wall Street and Corporate America hustle. Beyond the greatest minds from big book academia, Christ transcends our finest rational deductions, debate and logic. Not with the clanging crash, not with a big-sales toothy promise and contract fine print, but with a strangely familiar whisper saying, to each of us, “Here I AM, seek Me now.”
Right where you are at this moment, hush your busy heart, open your quizzing mind and simply look for these small glimpses of God’s glory breaking-in, breaking-out, sprouting, shooting, creating a Kingdom, changing the world, transforming you and me.
Seek the overlooked, hardly noticed or even ignored shoot that bears undeniable witness to the truth of God–the manger scene mocked by the chilled hearts of the agnostics and atheists of our day–the dusty Bible on your bookshelf–the old Christmas hymn that strangely tugs at your heart.
Lasting glory cannot be gotten, but it can be gazed upon in God’s Story. The Story of the Tree, which began as a Twig, and became a Roman Cross, to save us from ourselves. This Story is invisible to the proud, to the faithless, Who this small Bethlehem Babe really is; God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us.
He reaches out to the little, the least, the lonely, the lost, in mercy. But, to those who choose to lose themselves in the hurry, the flurry and the worry of this season–peace, joy and LIFE eludes them.
Advent, what matters most is paradoxical; a Twig from eternity named Jesus.
- In what areas of your life do you feel like a lifeless stump, dreaming of a tender shoot of hope, longing for encouragement to move on towards its fulfillment?
- Will we ultimately know God on our terms or His?
- What would you say you are waiting for this season, yearning to experience?
- What signs of a tender shoot sprouting, of new life coming, would you recognize from what you once considered dead?
- Since so much of the Advent Story meaning leans into the realm of the paradox,
how can we better understand what God has for us?
- Prayer . . .
- Father, Hush our busy heart, open our quizzing mind and enable us to simply look for the small glimpses of your glory breaking-in, breaking-out, sprouting, shooting, creating a Kingdom, changing the world, transforming your people. To you be all the glory! In the name of our Lord, our Savior, and your Son Christ Jesus, we your children pray this Advent–asking for the grace to continue to pray such throughout our daily life in the coming year, Amen.
Editor’s note: I added the bold to a significant sentence (but I must confess that it was hard to resist not adding more bold to highlight the material afterward) and the prayer “in” Response. Click here for Part 2 (Advent: The Problem of What Matters) of David’s insightful series (Thank-you David!) and here for our expanding Advent reflections/resources. To God be the glory! ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network