Isaiah 11:1-10 December 11, 2016
The Third Sunday in Advent
An Advent Tradition for Everyone (moving the crèche figures)
A Scripture Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stock 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 the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek 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 and the fatling 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.
Carol 129: “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” Pilgrim Hymnal
Into The Darkest Hour by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss-
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.
It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight-
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.
And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
Carol 120: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Pilgrim Hymnal
The Isaiah reading is a fan favorite – the wonderful image of the peaceable kingdom. An image which has been rendered in art, on Christmas cards and in our imaginations. And yet and yet, we know, 2,700 years after Isaiah was written and 2000 years after the Prince of Peace was born we know that the Lion does not lie down with Lamb, we know that the earth is not full of the knowledge of the Lord nor is righteousness the dominant political value. There is not equity for the poor and the meek, well, the meek are just . . . meek.
How do we keep proclaiming such a message?
Conference Minister Lynn Bujnak writes “It’s not easy waiting for the renewed Advent of the Divine into our world. It means also living in hope that along with faith is the “conviction of things not seen.” In times of prayer I ask myself – do I really believe the future is in God’s hands and that God’s compassion and love will triumph in the end?”
How do we keep the hope and vision of the Isaiah text and the promise of the nativity story alive? Why, we may some days ask ourselves, why do we bother at all?
Because you know we do it every year. We go through this ritual, this hoopla, with great effort of retelling the Christmas story. We read the Isaiah passages – for heaven’s sake, Linus even recites the promise every year to Charlie Brown and Lucy and Snoopy.
Why do we bother at all? We do it because it matters. It matters. We tell the story because we carry the hope and the vision and the promise of peace on earth, good will to all, of equality and justice rolling down like water. Because if we don’t who will? You and I are the messengers. We are the carriers of the promise and of the hope.
Wait – isn’t it the angels job to be messengers? To be the bearers of hope and to tell the world “be not afraid”?
Lord knows, we are not angels – I know too many of your stories – we are not angels, but we – you and I – are messengers, we are carriers of the promise because we have heard the story, we have experienced grace, we know we are loved and so we are the messengers even if we don’t fully understand.
In a world gone mad for war, someone needs to say “Be not Afraid”.
In the days following the election, many people felt vulnerable and their emotions were raw. I know that some of you felt deep fear and pain, are still feeling deep fear and pain. I know that others of you, with the current political situation feel hopeful and positive. But either way, the light has shone for us on a nation deeply divided. The frightening reality is that there are people – many people it seems – in our society who are willing to take any suggestion that racism and sexism and all sorts of other “isms” are okay as a green light to act with violence and bigotry. And that, wherever you are on the political spectrum – that is not okay.
As you know, my mom died the end of October. Well in the days following, my brother, Phil , was making phone calls to banks and attorneys and Mom’s financial advisor. He happened to call Mom’s financial advisor, a woman with whom we have met over the years, the day after the election. We happen to know that Rhonda is a gay woman in a long time partnership with Judith and that they have three rescue Jack Russel Terriers. These aren’t the kind of details that most people know about their financial advisor, but my mother had a way of getting people to tell their stories, of getting all sorts of random individuals to share personal details. My mom “collected” people. Anyway Phil Called Rhonda the after the election and in the usual conversation said, “how are you?” Rhonda said, “do you want to know the truth? I am terrified, as a lesbian woman I am terrified what the election results mean for me and Judith, Judith who is black is afraid to leave the house. We are terrified.” My brother, who was raised with the Christmas story, but who hasn’t been to church much in years, responded, “be not afraid, you tell Judith, be not afraid. We are with you. You are not alone. Do you hear me? You are not alone. Be not afraid.” Phil said there was a long silence on the phone, then some nose blowing and while he waited he wondered if he had really stepped over the line, but he waited and then after Rhonda composed herself, she said, “thank you, thank you, I needed that message.” Phil told me that he had no idea where the words came from, he couldn’t recite to you the bible verses, but he knew that he had to say it. “Be not afraid”.
(oh and Phil is now going to church, but that is a story for another day!)
“And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.”
WE ARE MESSENGERS and with that role comes a certain responsibility.
We have a message to share of hope, peace, joy and love. There is a reason that we light Advent candles each week, with the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Think of the Christmas Carols that we sing – poetic testament to the Christmas story and more importantly to the savior who is born. When we listen to the carols and when sing those carols, we are proclaiming a message of hope, peace, joy and love for all people.
In a time of fake news – when we don’t know which stories are true and which are in reality made up – when truth becomes whatever is repeated and tweeted and forwarded – we have to stand up for what we know to be true. We have a truth to proclaim in a story of a savior who came in the most vulnerable way, a savior who came for all people – ALL PEOPLE – and who expects us who have heard the story and have know ourselves to be loved, we are expected to do Kingdom work. Right here and right now. As messengers, in ways we don’t fully understand we are part of the salvation for which we are longing.
Lynn Bujnak again “ . . .we have a mission to fulfill: United in the Spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all. There are glimpses of hope, whiffs of justice, tastes of love for those of us with eyes to see. “
You are the messengers to the world, you carry the promise deep in your bones, you sing it, you tell the story, and may you have the courage to live the promise each day and in each encounter with God’s children in need of hope. “BE not afraid” good messengers, be not afraid of the message or of your job as messenger!
In the greatest of hope, thanks be to God. Amen.
122: “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” Pilgrim Hymnal
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” —Matthew 11.1
Someone you may not have noticed is waiting,
longing for healing, for justice, for hope.
You only mean to be passing by,
but they see you.
And even if they don’t know they are asking,
they are asking. “Are you the one?”
Not necessarily the Messiah,
but perhaps one to bring hope, to be a light in the darkness.
There may be someone in some kind of prison
looking for some kind of encouragement,
someone longing for healing or appreciation or forgiveness.
Will you be the one, or should they wait for another?
There may be people of color who see a white person and assume racism, until they see otherwise.
There may be a non-conforming person who assumes you will judge them unless you clearly don’t.
Will you be the one to shine light in their darkness,
or are they to wait for another?
Sit still in the grace of God.
Let the light that is dawning for the world dawn in you.
Let that light grow and radiate.
Bear it with you through the day.
You will meet someone who seeks grace,
who longs for a sign of hope.
And for them you will be the one.
[Deep blessings, Steve Garnaas-Holmes Unfolding Light www.unfoldinglight.net]
Anthem “Light a Single Candle” David Wingate