Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 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—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
My only other “Jesse Tree” was made for a church decoration years ago early in my own faith journey. I was caught up with the idea of a simple branch as a decoration. This year it’s different. The origami Stars are folded around the Word of Light for each post to help me remember. The ornaments for the days in between posts represent ways I do remember God has worked in my life. This year the Jesse Tree is more than a decoration.
Isaiah told about gifts the Savior would receive, “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—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
There’s a little piece of knitting to remember my first real awareness that God could use ordinary hands and a pair of knitting needles for his purposes. Prayer Shawls were knit with nothing more than those hands and trust that God would open my eyes to recognize a connection he’d made between his heart and my hands to know who should receive that shawl. Giving away those shawls was an unexpected gift that changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
This year the Jesse Tree is my visual reminder of why I choose to spend these days remembering the Big Event; the birth of our Savior. I can see with my own eyes how the branch is changing as the ornaments are added each day. They are the gifts received, remembered and returned that make the branch beautiful and add Isaiah’s capital “B.” God bless the fruit of the Branch.
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you. It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.
The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”
We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!
There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.
This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well
You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others. It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing. May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
I love advent. I love taking the time every day to think about how the story of the birth of Christ is the beginning of life for so many of us. It’s as if remembering all the long-ago events that led up to his actual birth is God’s way of refreshing us. I love Advent Calendars and wreaths. This year I’m going to create a digital version of a less-well-known way to remember these days leading up to Christmas, the Jesse Tree, the branch Isaiah 11:1 mentions. There’s a lot of information on the internet about that if you want to know more.
On this first day of Advent 2016 I can’t help but think of the effort God put into preparing what we are here to remember again this year. Isaiah is a perfect place to begin. Out of the root of that stump of a great tree that seemed seemed only to be lost, there came Jesus, the branch who began at the very moment of his birth to bear fruit that you and I are living proof of.
Isaiah 40:3 – 5. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for The Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together…”
This passage looks very different today in the solemn thoughts of this road leading to the most significant event of the Bible, Easter morning. That’s what makes that one little preposition, “in” so important.
• In – expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.
“In” December Isaiah’s words were a warning about not allowing the distractions of Christmas to become my something else. Today that little preposition “in” has become The Reassurance that God IS the something else even “in” those distractions. It could read…
• Look, things are changing. I’m leveling the playing field to give you a better line of sight and access to me. I am “in” those ups and downs and dangers that threaten to enclose you and become the something else. Look for the changes “in”your path that show the glory of who I am…and the reality of who you will be “in” the midst of that place. You’ll see!
1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…2…come down to make your name known…3…you did awesome things that we did not expect…4…on behalf of those who wait…8…We are the clay, you are the potter…9…Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.”
God has done just what Isaiah asked. He rent the heavens to do unexpected things…what could be more unexpected than sending Jesus into our world as a baby and from that cradle into my life? That’s why I look for that mysterious nudge from the Holy Spirit that says “look with fresh eyes at these familiar old words so you don’t overlook the awesome things I plan to show you this time you read them.”
Isaiah reminds me why I am walking, waiting and writing my way to the cradle this Advent. I am still clay in the potter’s hand: still being formed by this experience. All these centuries later, I am not walking alone. I am only one of your people who wait expectantly for Isaiah’s words and the old story of that birth in Bethlehem to become The Renewed Promise of Christ in our lives. Come Lord Jesus.
Isaiah 40:1-5 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
Isn’t that just beautiful imagery with a beautiful outcome? I couldn’t help but think about Christmas preparation today and wonder if Isaiah foresaw how we have tweaked it to become the very thing he was urging us to straighten out.
It’s weird, I know, but the image of a pinball machine popped into my head. You know the ones with little balls that are batted to and fro, amid the bells, whistles and flashing lights? It’s a game that you’re supposed to manipulate to get to the final bell ringing goal. Oh Lord, what a picture of all that Christmas preparation is NOT supposed to be.
Isaiah’s voice can hardly be heard above the din but preparation is not the problem, HOW we prepare is. Consider and compare pinball game preparation and the Prophet’s Preparation. Pinball preparation is like a wilderness, it’s uncharted territory controlled by gifts, decorations, food, other people’s schedules, programs and events. Interesting Isaiah uses the image of a two way street isn’t it? You might not be able to control all the traffic but you can control whether you are coming or going and what the direction will be. And therein lies the wisdom of the Prophets’s Preparation and the promise it holds…”And the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” That’s when you know it really is Christ-Mass and that you’re ready for it.