This year during this season of Advent we are still waiting for the Messiah’s return. Just as the people Isaiah was speaking were waiting for the coming of the Promised Savior so we wait for the Savior of the World to come again.
Isaiah gives us a picture of a tree stump which will produce a new shoot. The tree has been toppled and it looks like its dead but in the spring a leave appears, then a branch, and eventually it’s a small sapling.
Israel and Judah were being punished by God for disobeying the ten laws he’d given them. They failed to love God; they were failures at loving and caring for their neighbors. And so, God sent armies from Babylon to destroy the nation, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple on Zion. The people were taken into exile, many would never return. And some were left behind. God’s children were in exile in every nation in the known world.
Isaiah said that there was a remnant, those chosen few who had remained faithful to the Word of God. From this remnant the nation would be rebuilt. From this remnant, from the stump of Jesse, a new shoot would spring forth. This shoot would be the Savior of the whole world, Gentiles and Jews.
When this Savior came things would be different, everything would change. Nothing would be like it had been before.
Imagine wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, calves and lions, cows and bears all co-existing being led by a child. Imagine children playing next to a cobra’s den and putting their hands in the viper’s nest and not being bitten. It’s beyond anything we can imagine. We can hardly comprehend such a state, yet this is what God told Isaiah to tell the people…and a few believed, a remnant trusted in the words of the Lord.
From that remnant a nation was rebuilt. From this remnant a Savior was born. From this remnant a Savior will return to save the world…again. And make it new, make it different. Make it a place of peace and justice and righteousness and compassion. Make it a place where there is happiness and joy and laughter, a place we can just barely imagine. Some might call that place heaven.
A different place, a place nothing like anything we’ve ever experienced. When that happens “there will be change.” Nothing will be the same.
Can you remember your excitement when you were 6 or 8 or even 10 years old as you waited, expectantly, for Christmas Day? Can you remember the anticipation you felt as December 25th drew closer and closer? Do you remember how happy everyone seemed? Do you remember the smells that came from your Mom’s kitchen? Do you remember how you were told you had to wait until Christmas to sample the good things Mom was making? Do you remember?
My good friends, Jesus, our Savior, our Lord is coming again. The day of his return is closer now than it’s ever been. Can you feel the excitement, the anticipation, the tension?
God is gathering his children, the remnant, the body of Christ, in preparation for his return. When the Savior returns things will be different, things will change, drastically. Nothing will be like it is now. We won’t see any of the old familiar things because it will all be different.
As we wait in joyful anticipation for that day, let’s keep Paul’s words to the Romans and John’s words to the Jews ever before us.
The Word of God was written to give us hope and to encourage us as we wait. Paul says that we are to, “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you.”
John said, “The ax is lying at the root of the trees and every tree that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and used as firewood.”
Jesus Christ our Savior is coming again to save the world, to make it new again, to bring peace like we’ve never known in our lives. And so we wait, expectantly, anxiously, excitedly for that day, that day that’s just around the corner.
My friends, as John said, “Repent, for the day of the kingdom of heaven is near.” And things are going to be different. Everything will change.
God sent his Son, Jesus, not just for the Jews but for all who accept him as their Savior, Gentiles…and Jews.
In Paul’s words, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Thanks be to God. Amen.