Advent is all about hope. Hope is that particular kind of waiting with expectation that refuses to be discouraged in the face of delay and detour. Each year during Advent we celebrate and stir hope in our hearts because the Promised One has come. Word became flesh and dwelled among us. Hope was no longer deferred when Salvation came in infant form to a stable in Jerusalem.
Isaiah 11 is a passage pregnant with hope. Within its very first words, hope is present. Take a moment to focus on the imagery. Picture the seeming lifelessness of a stump that with the defiance of hope, is sending up a shoot. Life is springing from what appears to be dead. Emerging from the roots, the tendrils of life that grow in dark, unseen spaces deep below the surface, comes a fruit-bearing branch of life. Hope often has its roots in what is unseen, and in the belief that what IS seen isn’t the whole story.
Consider people and circumstances in your sphere that seem lifeless, and take a moment to hope and pray for them. Remember, God may be working below the surface preparing to bring forth life from what appears to be dead.
Isaiah pushes our hope further as he names Jesse, rather than David, in the verse. The royal, Davidic line held so much expectation and promise. But Jesse? Why would the Branch come from the stump of Jesse? Perhaps because we need to be reminded that it is not only the powerful, the “royal,” and the expected leaders who hold promise and bear fruit. The forgotten fathers also have a place in history and an important part to play in the transformation of the nations. The Jesses in our neighborhoods and ministries need to be named and recognized because they, too, bear fruit. They force us to hope and pray and wait, maybe even a little more deeply than the Davids in our midst.
Verses 6-8 portray the impossible becoming possible. Wolves living with lambs, leopards and goats lying together, calves and lions and yearlings feeding together – all these creatures who normally cannot coexist become like family. Within these images, we are compelled to hope beyond reason. The call to believe and wait for and expect impossible things finds a home in the Hope of Advent. The belief that harm, violence, and destruction will one day be vanquished is rooted in the coming of Christ who restores all things.
What seems impossible in your community or life? Have you become discouraged and failed to hope?
Let this Advent season and this week of Hope remind you that, because of the presence of Christ, life springs from death. Hope comes forth from disappointment. Peace is birthed in the midst of chaos. Promise is held in the forgotten fathers of our communities. The impossible becomes possible through the coming and knowledge of the Christ.