No wonder we sing

Isaiah 11: 1-9
They are some of the most familiar words at Christmastime: A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.

That line begins a passage from Isaiah 11. It’s a vision of the righteous king who is to come. Of course, the prophet Isaiah has much more to say about this promise. There are many passages we have from Isaiah that inform how we perceive the reign of Jesus.

For today, let’s consider two aspects from Isaiah 11.

It took me several years to notice the first I want to share with you. The prophet says that a shoot or a branch will come from a stump. Without paying attention, to me, that simply meant a tree would grow. But then it hit me. A tree will grow from a stump. A stump is the piece left over after a tree is cut down.

There’s no definitive answer to what that means. What part of the ancestry of Jesus does this allude to? This could be an illustration that speaks to different moments of Israel’s history.

For those of us outside that historical setting, there is still a lesson. It’s part of what we highlight at Christmas. “The light has come into the world,” Jesus said (John 3:19). He is the light, and the light is what we need to see in the darkness of night. Remember those words from the psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105). Not only does the light bring direction to keep us from stumbling in the dark, but it also brings healing.

We all have our stump moments.

These are the trying times, our moments of suffering that impact us deeply. Yesterday, I listened to the testimony of a United Methodist pastor in Kentucky. By now, you’ve seen the devastation from the recent tornado that hit that state and others along a 250-mile path. Through their despair, they’re holding on to the hope and joy of Christ.

That’s a powerful enough reminder for us. But Isaiah offers another vision of the coming king’s reign.

Somehow, this king has influence over creation. There’s no hunting of the weak. Children have no fear of snakes. Animals graze together and live in peace. How is this possible? The prophet says, “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” That’s how. 

And if the king can reorder creation, then surely he can offer peace to you. Over the years so many people have confessed to me they know they need to get their “life together.” Now, I affirm a lot of what they mean. But what has struck me is the tone of that confession. It’s as if they dread it. That tells me that perhaps we don’t understand exactly what God intends for us.

The Lord’s desire isn’t to whip us into shape. That’s not peace.

God gave us Jesus so that we could have life in abundance. The program I use to write highlighted that last word for me. It wants me to change abundance to something less complex. I think that’s what a lot of us try to do in life, trade what God wants for us for something else less than.  The joy and excitement of life are learning what abundant life means.

Considering what kind of king we know we have, it’s no wonder we sing “Joy to the world!”
Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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