Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Editor’s note: Throughout Advent, bloggers for The Mennonite will write reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s Lectionary text. These reflections are archived at themennonite.org/advent. Sign up for our TMail newsletter and follow us on Facebook to receive the reflections.
Sun., Dec. 8 Lectionary readings: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12
“A shoot shall come up from the stump of Jesse…. From his roots a Branch shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). Given the cold, rainy, snowy, icy and overall dreary weather that takes some of us from autumnal splendor into a dormant winter, a shoot coming forth from anything is a stark image. Fruit during this season for those of us who live in colder climates is hard to picture. This is not the time for new life. The life we’ve seen around us has died, and all manner of living things has gone into hibernation.
While all of us likely know Jesus was not born on Dec. 25, the juxtaposition of the winter solstice and the hope and new birth of Advent is rather striking, particularly considering the imagery in Isaiah 11. Everything here is going against the grain. Old stumps and roots have branches with much fruit. Children can play near snakes. Lions are lying down with lambs. The natural order of things has been cast aside for a peaceable, harmonious, pastoral image.
Not only that, the One Who is Coming will also subvert the natural order. They will not simply act and move on what they can see and hear like we do; they will have full knowledge of what justice and righteousness will look like and will act accordingly. Isaiah says the One will “slay the wicked” and “with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”
That which we are anticipating will not look like what we are expecting. The One will not come in the form of someone rich or powerful, not as someone who will come with a sword or the scales of justice, but as a baby. Life as we know it will not be the same. Isaiah further emphasizes this by painting a picture of predator and prey not only shedding their roles, but living in harmony. The coming of the One means that changes will happen, starting with new life coming from old, dead, dormant matter.
How has our faith become old, dead or dormant over the season of Ordinary Time? Are we turning a blind eye to injustice? Feel so hurt that we’ve become numb? Have schedules overtaken our time with loved ones and those who are in need? Do we read or watch or listen to the news and wonder what, if anything, will change?
Isaiah’s imagery here is aimed right at those who need a wake-up call: the One who is Coming will slay the wicked, help the poor and instill harmony and peace as surely as the “waters cover the sea.” Not only is the revolution of the current order in the hands of the Anointed, it is also our responsibility to enact.
We are called to pray, to witness, to act in ways that bring about the Kingdom Order in the here and now, a Kingdom Order that starts with anticipation. We anticipate, wait and hope for the One Who is Coming, One who will be born in a barn as a refugee to unmarried parents who are scared and far away from home. Are we ready for a change? Are we ready for a revolution?
Joanne Gallardo is pastor of faith formation at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship in Goshen, Indiana.
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