A Reading from Isaiah 11
1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see
or decide by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge for the poor
and decide with equity for the oppressed of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb;
the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the lion will feed together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
11 On that day the Lord will again raise his hand to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
12 He will raise a signal for the nations
and will assemble the outcasts of Israel
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart;
the hostility of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not be hostile toward Ephraim.
14 But they shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west;
together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
15 And the Lord will dry up
the tongue of the sea of Egypt
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching wind
and will split it into seven channels
and make a way to cross on foot;
16 so there shall be a highway from Assyria
for the remnant that is left of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.
One of my favorite lessons in the lectionary is the Holy Saturday reading from Job, which says that though a tree cut down may yet sprout again and live, a man cannot. If there were such a thing as two Old Testament lessons at once, and were someone to choose lessons for Arbor Day, perhaps they could pair that with this: “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
Some translations say, “The stump of Jesse,” and well they might. The gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus, and we see that more than once all hope for the Messiah to be yet produced by this family was dead — even more so if you consult the Old Testament to count the generations this genealogy leaves out. For every Boaz there are a good number of Mannassehs.
Often at Christmastime we marvel that Jesus chose to be born in a poor stable among common, dirty, pack and farm animals. The struggles of being poor, of being oppressed by the Roman rulers, of being subject to physical pain are there before us. For everyone who struggles at Christmastime because they miss a loved one: Jesus knew that pain as he lost his foster father, Joseph. Yet here is one more thing in which Jesus gets us: he had a painful, complicated, in places awful, family legacy. For anyone who struggles through the holiday season because your family is not loving, or supportive, or present, or is even downright toxic, Jesus knows that, too. God called Mary and Joseph from that family anyway, and chose them for his own, just as he chooses us.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, Georgia
The Diocese of Oke-Ogun – The Church of Nigeria