Isaiah 11:1-3 (NIV)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
We all come from someone, somewhere, and something—a people, a place, and a story. We come from someone in our family line—parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and so many others form extensions of the root system from which we each descend. We come from somewhere, in that people are always physically located—we live in times and places unique to us, and even as we move from place to place we carry bits of our previous location with us in our hearts and memories. We come from something, in that we come from a story that is uniquely, remarkably, our own—while that story is also uniquely tied to our family line throughout history, and is ultimately tied to God’s great love Story with humanity.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that you are not only made up of the breath of God in you and your own genetic configuration, but you are also truly “from the root” of your family line that has gone before you. You are special, a “branch” from that root if you will, and have been delivered to all of us as a gift of God’s orchestration, the God who brings our paths to cross.
Entering into Advent, the season that inaugurates the Christian New Year, we open our spirits once again to the whole story of faith that Jesus came to reveal. Each Advent, we enter that story once again with deepened reverence, brimming worship, and expectant reflection on the person of Jesus. It is Jesus toward which the entirety of the biblical narrative points, from the Hebrew covenant to the new covenant, and in which we find the purposes of God acted out for our sake and for the sake of the world.
To understand Jesus, we would do well to discover the root of faith from which he springs. It is a spiritual root system, in fact, that both Isaiah 11:1-3 and Matthew 1:1-17 are eager to convey. The Son of God, it seems, the Lord’s Messiah and our Ascended Master, did not come to us in a vacuum. He didn’t descend from a strange, ethereal heaven in a mysterious cloud of divinity shimmering with an otherworldly glow. He came as a child, born naturally of a mother from a family line herself, and nurtured by a father who knew the names of his own kin many generations into the past. In Isaiah 11:1-3, that great prophetic passage that hails Christ’s birth, we see that Jesus, the Branch, comes from the family line of the great King David, the son of Jesse, and from a long line of the faithful to which we point today saying, “Lord, as they said yes to you, so may we.”
And it is here that we begin our Advent journey this year. The idea that has been traditionally known as a “Jesse Tree” will be our map. A Jesse Tree is an approach to the preparation season of Advent, leading us toward Christmas, that encourages us to revisit stories from the Hebrew Bible to help us to understand the family line of Jesus and the spiritual mandate of the child born to save the world. We will draw from both Jesus’ genealogical ancestry and his faith heritage, as we walk together on a journey through the stories of saints and sinners woven into the family line of the Son of God.
From a root, comes a branch. In that Branch, Jesus, you and I learn to abide in and draw from his unending resources (John 15:1-5), and in so doing, we are born again to eternal life. Let’s begin.
Root of Jesse, the story you’ve woven together with our lives involves so many faithful men and women, people who lived and died, succeeded, stumbled, fell, got back up, and some who rose in faith to the call of their day. Open my heart to learn from you as we step onto the path of your story, once again, this Advent season, a story into which you’ve woven me for your glory. I welcome you coming to me in a fresh and revelatory way this Advent. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Consider your own family line as far back as you have records, and those who sought to walk faithfully as well as those who stumbled and fell. Where can you see the gifts of God leading you to today, potentially those that came to you through your family? Consider your natural gifts, your appearance, your ways of thinking, and your location. Can you name a few gifts that came to you through your own family line?
For the Awakening,
P.S. Shhh It’s me– J.D., sneaking in on Dan’s Post. . .
And isn’t Dan the best! So I’ve got good news and good news for you. Which one first? Good News #1—your giving yesterday on Giving Tuesday deeply encouraged me and stunned our whole team. THANK YOU. Good News #2—It’s Giving Wednesday!! (smile). In all seriousness, we are going to keep open what we are calling “The Encouragement Campaign” for the rest of the week. We will send you one of the Encouragement Series books as our gift in response to a gift from you for any amount. Seriously, thank you. We still have a long way to go, but Jesus knows the way.