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.
Have you ever seen a tree growing out of an old, dead stump? What beautiful imagery here in that Christ has come with new life out of death. His story of death, burial, and resurrection is lived out over and over for us as well, helping to grow in us the same character outlined in this passage, through our own mini-deaths, burials, and then resurrection to new life.
- When have you experienced death, burial, and resurrection in your own life?
- Where would you say you are right now in this mystery?
- What about the character of God are you leaning into in this season?
Gracious God, we need new life be rooted in us. May we lean into your unfailing love and character, trusting that you will meet us where we are and breathe new life into us through the Spirit of Christ in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Isaiah 11: 3-5
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.
This Person, Emmanuel, who comes from God and is God, knows that there is more to our stories than what can be seen and heard. His judgment, righteousness, and justice is true, more true than any mortal’s. We are invited to trust in his judgment over ours.
- Are there ways that you are judging others based on what you see and hear?
- Have there been times when you have felt judged by man and mistaken it for the judgement of God?
- How do you experience Christ in his faithfulness and righteousness?
Gracious God, we relinquish to you in this Advent season our propensity to judge with the eyes of mortals, eyes that would have shunned Mary as an outcast. We lean into your righteousness and your faithfulness to shine the light of truth into our lives and draw us closer to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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.
Shalom is peace within us, with God, with others, and with the world. The world that is ushered in by the Prince of Peace is one that is free from hatred, domination, and animosity, and filled with the love, harmony and unity that is reflected in our Trinitarian God.
- Where are you experiencing shalom?
- Where in your life do you need the unity of the Triune God to overcome?
- This week, how can you cultivate a context of love, harmony, and unity?
Gracious God, we pray for shalom. We pray that you would make right our relationships and bring reconciliation where right now there is division and hatred. Help us to let go of our propensity to judge with blurry vision that we might instead live in the hope of the day when you will make all things new. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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.
Emmanuel ushered in a Kingdom where safety is enjoyed by all. The knowledge of God will lead, not to arrogance and hierarchy among knowledge holders, but to a place where no one, not even the most vulnerable, is hurt or destroyed.
- How does your knowledge of God lead you to cultivating a place that is safe for the most vulnerable?
- When have you found knowledge of God to lead to arrogance?
- How can you cultivate spaces of safety from harm and destruction? What might that look like?
Gracious God, we are grateful for providing safety and freedom from harm for us. As we live in your holiness, carrying your character with us, show us ways that we can make your creation, your world a safer place for all, even the most vulnerable. May we share the peace you give us to other. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 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 place in the guest room.
The familiar story of Jesus’ birth – it's easy to gloss over the surroundings in which Mary labored and brought her sweet boy into the world. Without the help of the midwife or the women of her family, Mary and Joseph shared an unprecedented moment of vulnerability together to bring Jesus into the world. Jesus still comes into unprecedent, even unideal places where there is love, humility, and openness to His presence.
- When have you been asked to step into an unfamiliar place?
- What emotions are stirred in your as you imagine the closeness and vulnerability of the birthing scene, with Mary and Joseph sharing this uncertain but sacred experience?
- Where is that unfamiliar place that God is inviting you right now?
Gracious God, we acknowledge that you show up in unlikely places and invite us to participate. In those times when we are stepping into unfamiliar spaces, give us the grace and courage to be curious, open, and humble that we might see you in all your glory and vulnerability. In Jesus’ name, Amen.