READ Isaiah 11
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
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. (Isaiah 11:1-2)
This is hope: that even when the forest has been decimated, every last living plant hacked to the ground, no birdsong in the trees—even then, when all seems lost, a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.
In today’s passage, we read about Israel, having endured slavery in Egypt and wilderness in the dessert, now in exile. The people of God are weary and battered, discouraged by their own sin and the wickedness of the world. They look around: No one lives honourably. Evil reigns. Orphans and widows are neglected. People are puffed up, and institutions corrupt. And God, in his righteous judgment, intends to put a stop to it by bringing it all to the ground.
He “will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down” (Isaiah 10:33). All that will be left is a barren landscape, the bald remains of a clear-cut forest. But— “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).
Imagine wandering through that post-apocalyptic landscape, seeing nothing but grey for miles, and suddenly coming across that shoot! The first green. The first bit of supple growth, signalling water beneath and, someday, a tree.
Who is this shoot, whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon? Jesus. Jesus, descendant of Jesse. Jesus, descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus, the one promised centuries before his arrival. Jesus is the one we hope for this Advent.
God, I am amazed at your patience and your plan for redeeming all things. Thank you for giving us hope in Jesus, like new growth after a devastating bushfire. Please give me strength to keep hoping, faith to keep trusting and help me pay attention to you this Advent. Amen.
BLESS & DO
Make a Jesse tree for your home (see instructions above). Add some leaves and the first picture to it.
Bless someone by giving them some flowers or a plant.
READ Luke 2:1-21
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:6-11)
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:16-18)
Eep! Have you heard the Good News? Jesus is born! A new branch is finally sprouting from the stump of Jesse. Mary is pondering it all. As she nurses little Jesus, she’s thinking about what it means that he is here, ready to save the world. The angels are proclaiming it. They come as a huge choir, singing about how amazing God is.
The shepherds are a part of it, too. God chooses to tell them first. The shepherds aren’t fancy or important, but they’re the first ones who get to meet Jesus. And today, you get to be there with the shepherds. You get to hear the Good News. You get to meet Jesus. You get to go tell other people about it. God has chosen you! He wants you to have a part in his story.
Jesus, we’re so glad you’ve come! Thank you for being born into our world. Thank you for loving us enough to come to save us and live with us. How thrilled and grateful I am that you willingly entered into the darkness of the world to bring your light and life. The life you bring is just the beginning of a whole new creation in your Spirit. I can’t wait to see what’s yet to come. Amen.
BLESS & DO
Add the Jesus picture to your tree.
Do things for others today that you might not ordinarily do to Bless them and show Jesus’ love.
READ Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Luke 2:1-20
Our readings this week draw our attention towards the awareness of God in our midst: Isaiah casts the prophecy forwards, of the light dawning, Psalms calls us to marvel at the splendour of God manifest in the world, and Luke is the story of that glorious moment of light dawning that Isaiah saw. This final week of Advent is a celebration – rightly so – and it is full of light and hope. This week we will encourage each other with what God is actually doing in our lives and our community. What are the things that God is doing among us that people might not normally see?
REFLECT, TALK & DO
When it’s dark, it can be hard to see what is right in front of us. When Jesus arrived, it was with light and joy – the angels lit up the sky, the stars pointed at the new thing that was happening. The reading from Isaiah draws our attention to this: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
Over the last few weeks, we have been building an Advent tree: it’s full of our reflections and thanks, and prayers and hopes. Today, we are going to add the pinnacle of the Advent story– a baby in an unlikely place. The Christmas story encourages us to look in ordinary places for extraordinary things – for a light dawning in a dark place. Angels appearing to wisemen, a Bright star shining in the sky.
Advent is also a time for gathering together and for sharing, so I want to encourage you to turn to the people around you and have a bit of a think, together.
To finish off our Advent tree – we are going to add Jesus to the scene. During the service write down the stories that you have shared, and the ways that you have seen Jesus show up in your life this year, and then add them to the tree here, or take them home.
Isaiah called the people to look forward to the day when the people walking in darkness would see a great light. He encouraged his people to see a future, where a light has dawned on the darkness. God, please help us to see and know that light. Help us to be the light in dark places, and to recognise and share the stories of how we see Jesus in our lives. Thank you for your light, Jesus the Light of the World. Amen.
Watery Advent 5. JESUS
Usually, during Advent, we do an advent candle wreath, however this year we are doing a water wreath! Especially in the hot Australian Summer water is something that we anticipate, that we hope for. A cup of cool cup of water on a hot summer’s day, rain for our farmers and lawns, water to swim in, water for baptism! Water is a powerful symbol.
So each week, just like we would with a candle wreath, we’re going to fill a new cup instead of lighting a new candle as we reflect on Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy. Each week we will be adding more to the Jesse tree and to remind us of life growing out of the stump.
1: As we pour the water to complete our wreath, we celebrate the coming of Jesus.
All: We thank you for coming as one unlike anyone else. [Pour water into the fifth glass.]
2: We remember the one who came by water and blood, the one who cried for his dead friend, the one who was thirsty and asked a woman for a drink.
All: We thank you for coming as one unlike anyone else.
1: We remember the one who walked on water, the one who calmed the waves, the one who turned water into wine.
All: We thank you for coming as one unlike anyone else.
2: We remember the one who is living water for us here and now.
All: We thank you because our thirst for God is quenched in you. Amen.