Christmas Blessings

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit.” 

(Isaiah 11:1, NIV)

                One of my favorite sanctuary banners artfully illustrates Isaiah 11:1.  Against the Advent blue colored backdrop is a large tree stump.  The many rings of the once great tree were laid bare.  Visible at the base of the trunk are the tops of sturdy roots that looked strong and imaginably deep enough to support the tree through many a storm and drought.  The stump is a stark reminder of what had been taken away. 

In Isaiah 11:1, the stump depicts the house of Jesse, the father of King David and the house and lineage of King David.  Under David and Solomon, Israel had grown to be a wealthy and mighty kingdom.  But subsequent rulers and subsequent years would see that mighty kingdom and the royal house of Jesse brought low like a great tree that had been cut at the base. 

Trees cut at the base – not a foreign sight in the Pacific Northwest, an area famous for forests and a thriving forest industry.  Have you ever seen what had been a stand of trees after it has been cut?  The first time I saw acres of stumps off of Highway 101, my heart sank thinking of the beauty that once was.  I don’t share that as commentary on responsible forestry, rather to show the contrast between what is and what had been.

A tree cut at the base - it is easy to use that image in describing the lives of people whose health has failed.  Vigor, vitality, and normalcy (the list could go on) are all things that often get taken away and leave a stark contrast between what is and what had been.  Yet no matter what is taken away from us in this life, there is hope – hope founded in the promise that our verse from Isaiah 11:1 heralds.

The tree depicted in Isaiah 11:1 had been cut at the base, but God still had something good in store for it.  Isaiah 11:1 speaks of a shoot, a branch that would come from the stump of Jesse.  From the house and lineage of David would come the Messiah whose birth we first anticipate during Advent and then celebrate during Christmas.  The fruit that the branch would bear is all that the Messiah accomplished to bring reconciliation between God and sinful people.  The Messiah’s birth offers joy for the world and joy for each and every one of us. 

The image of the branch is an image of renewal in the face of death and devastation – renewal for this life and the life of the world to come.  Those who hope in the Messiah can draw strength from Paul’s words when he writes, “… though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16b, ESV).  Those who hope in Christ can savor the blessings when God brings restoration to body and spirit – not to mention relationships.  Those who hope in the Messiah have everlasting hope – for this life and the life of the world to come.  That is why we celebrate at Christmas and await our Lord’s return. 

At LMSN, we are thankful for the chance to renew outreach at the King County Jail and Veteran’s Hospital in Seattle.  We ask for your prayers and financial support as those efforts get underway, and we pray that those efforts bear fruit by giving people the hope we celebrate this time of year.                

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