Second Week of Advent December 4 - 10, 2016
Isaiah 11: 1, 6-10
1 A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
In the verses preceding this selection, the prophet Isaiah warns Israel of the consequences of turning away from God, of not being faithful to their promise to care for the most vulnerable among them: children, widows, strangers in their midst. Isaiah describes the damage and loss he foresees for Israel, expressed in part through the image of the forests in the lands surrounding Judah.
Look, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall. Isaiah 10:33-34
Immediately, though, Isaiah reminds Israel of God's desire always to be in relation with God's people. Even if the forest falls, God will preserve its future in the stump that remains: "A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots." And this future holds great hope. Predator and prey will be at peace with each other, children will be free from harm, and God's "holy mountain" will not see destruction.
A few years ago I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for a new church home. For almost fifteen years, though it wasn't my tradition, I had chosen to worship in a Jesuit Roman Catholic community with my husband and three sons so we could be together as a family through their most formative years. The time was becoming right for me to find a community that I could fully call home. My friend Keri, a parishioner at St. Paul's, enthusiastically invited me to visit, describing the community as "the closest thing to heaven on earth." How could I ignore that endorsement?! I think of Keri's characterization each time I walk through the doors of St. Paul's. As the world rages around us, here I catch glimpses of God's reign on earth, reflections of Isaiah's promise. I am grateful for the hope that our community harbors. We at St. Paul's offer a sanctuary, preserving light and hope. I see our campaign plans to create a warm, inviting, light-filled space for our children as a concrete expression of our commitment to nurture that hope into the future.
As I light advent candles with my family, I meditate on the light and hope that God brings into the world in Jesus. This week, I will also consider the ways in which the St. Paul's community does the same. What are the expressions of hope that I most value? Is it the sense of welcome, the celebration of difference, the joy in worship? For these things I will give thanks. I invite you to join me.
- Tammy Hobbs Miracky