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1st Week of Advent
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (Isaiah 11:1)
An old stump lies forgotten in the woods. The great tree it once supported was chopped down generations ago, and whoever cut it down left the stump alone, expecting that it would just die and rot. But that didn’t happen. After many, many years, it is showing signs of life. A tiny new shoot is growing on that ancient stump. It is green and vulnerable, barely noticed, but it’s there—a quiet miracle if ever there was one.
Though its strong branches may one day provide shade and shelter, today it’s just a twig. Cartloads of fruit may come from it later, but for now, a single gentle bud blossoms.
This is the picture that the prophet Isaiah paints as he describes a future king of Israel, who will bring righteousness and justice back to God’s people. For Isaiah, that king was likely Hezekiah, the infant son of the current king, Ahab. This child would become a “greater David” springing from the same root, establishing peace and justice.
By invoking the image of a once majestic tree beginning to regain, and eventually surpass, its former glory, Isaiah tells the people that God has not abandoned them. The “stump” of their nation has not been left to rot! An age of renewal and redemption is coming, even though it begins as inconspicuously as a twig sprouting deep in a forest.
This is how God wants us to look at the birth of his Son. He wants us to see that this little child, who looks so weak and helpless, is the One destined to change the world. It must have been hard for most people to see the child Jesus in this way, but some did. Mary and Joseph, as well as Simeon and Anna and maybe a handful of others, saw it. And what these few people saw changed their lives. Simeon was filled with peace because his eyes had finally seen God’s salvation. Anna was so excited that she couldn’t stop talking about him.
So what do you see when you look at the baby in the manger?
“Lord, open my eyes so that I can see who you are.”
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
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