Frustrated gardeners and farmers of the world, unite! By late November, even the fall greens are looking pretty brown, but we can’t risk our emotional health by pulling out the seed catalogs just yet. It is fallow time. We cover the soil with compost and mulch and leave it there, bereft, with only our hopes for next month’s solstice to reverse the length of day and light and warmth. In the meantime, only twinkle lights hanging everywhere sustain our spirits.
Isaiah comforts the frustrated gardeners of his exiled community with words of fruitfulness, hope, encouragement. “The stump appears to be dead, I know. Our family tree is cut down. It looks like we are finished as a people, as a nation.”
But wait. Something is afoot. Deep in the dark recesses of the earth, life stirs even yet. “This is not over,” Isaiah tells the bereft people. “Life is here. This stump of our family is not done. Our roots are sound and grounded.” A shoot, a sprout, a branch, a canopy is in our future. Then grows a tree of righteousness, shelter for the people, protection and provision.
Isaiah promises that the Spirit of the Holy will guide their new leader. The selection of the nation’s new hope won’t rest on looks or brute strength. God’s people will be led with wise words and impulses toward justice and respect. Love for the Holy will produce a crop of fruitful people of peace, reprieve for the suffering, and comfort for the grieving.
God of hope, when we are in darkness, remind us that you and life exist here too. Amen.
The Old Testament roots of Advent hope are cast in royal imagery. The psalm marks the king as one whose work is to bring justice to the weak. The new king makes a new world possible. The Gospel reading is both invitation and warn- ing that we must make concrete decisions to reorder our life in ways appropriate to God’s new intention. Characteristically Paul makes the grand, sweeping claim: The new behavior appropriate to God’s new governance is that the strong and the weak, the haves and have-nots, relate to each other in new faithfulness. Advent is spent pondering speci c decisions about bringing our daily life into sync with God’s rule.
• Read Isaiah 11:1-10. When do you allow yourself “fallow” time? How does that time of “resting” nurture your fruitful- ness?
• Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. This prayer for the king expresses the qualities that the people desire in a leader. What would you add to the list?
• Read Romans 15:4-13. Paul notes that Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Consider the last several months: Whom have you welcomed for the glory of God?
• Read Matthew 3:1-12. What is growing in your heart’s wil- derness this Advent season?
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