December 13, 2021

December 13, 2021

December 13, 2021

Laura Feely Ashline
First-Centenary UMC
Scenic South District

A Transformative Shoot
Isaiah 11:1-9 (NIV)

11 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.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.


Some of my earliest memories are from when I was a very small child and my mother would seat me on the kitchen counter next to the sink by the window while she worked on making a meal. From my seated point of view I watched the natural world out the window, most notably the birds. I loved spotting the large pileated woodpeckers on our tall pines. On many occasions, Mom would also help me “plant” some carrot tops on the windowsill. This consisted of the thin top slice of the carrot that I would carefully lay in a shallow dish of water and in just a day or so from it greenery would emerge. These sprouts were absolutely magical to me. I can envision Jesse’s stump as one of these carrot slices from which the fresh green of Christ will sprout.
I love the vision of Christ that Isaiah lays out in this beautiful verse. The birth of Christ and the absolute transformation that lays in store for the world is represented by this small bud of life on a seemingly dead tree stump. The stump stands for the past and the lifelessness that has choked our relationships with each other and most importantly with God. Life then sprouts forth from this stump which still holds our roots of faith. This new life shoves forth into our world the birth of Christ and the mantle that is laid upon him by God. This small shoot creates big effects. It does more than just exist, it produces fruit in us, flourishing and bringing God’s faithful righteousness to life in us.
What a powerful image the next verses bring of the absolute depth of God’s spirit which blossoms in Christ for all of us: ”wisdom and understanding… council and might… knowledge and fear of the Lord…”. Christ’s love is undergirded not only by the strength of God’s justice but also by the power of his righteousness . The verses continue with Christ’s fulfillment of God’s judgement based not solely on sight and hearing, but rather  much more focused on the meaning exemplified by our actions and thoughts.
As the scripture carries on, Isaiah explores a harmonious world, one where misfits dwell together and opposites not only tolerate each other completely, but come together in love and an acute awareness of God’s kingdom. This green shoot, this Christ, from the stump of Jesse has the power to change everything around it, to transform all in its path. This is a radical reorder of the world and all its interactions. When we lean into this evolution we soften our hearts, we focus within, and this shoot transforms us. Then we find that this harmonious life, full of love and wisdom and insight, is welcomed into our world.
This transformation is described in these lyrics from the hymn Now the Heavens Start to Whisper by Mary Louise Bringle:
“Now the heavens start to whisper, as the veil is growing thin.
Earth from slumber wakes to listen to the stirring, faint within:
seed of promise, deeply planted, child to spring from Jesse’s stem!
Like the soil beneath the frostline, hearts grow soft to welcome him.”


Thank you, God, for the amazing gift of your son that we are preparing for this Advent season. Help us quiet ourselves and soften our hearts to ready our lives to welcome the transformative love of Christ and this love’s radical changes in our world.