The Shoot From the Stump of Jesse
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-5
Our Advent “wreath” in Fogartie Hall is a bit different from the norm. Constructed several years ago by one of our church members, it is a heavy piece of the trunk of a tree, cut at an angle at the top with five holes for the traditional Advent candles, all on a sturdy wood base with casters. It’s a bit jarring to see it at first. There’s no leafy greenery. It’s just a dead stump with candles. But it calls to mind an important passage from Isaiah, where we read that “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.” Jesse was King David’s father, and God made a covenant that David’s royal line would reign forever. When that line failed and the kingdom was torn asunder and then fell to foreign empires, it was thought that the Davidic covenant had come to an end. But the prophet Isaiah offered hope that the royal line thought to be dead would one day spring forth with new life. That “shoot” from the stump of Jesse would be a new king who would rule with wisdom, power, equity, and reverence for God. It is easy to see why these verses came to be understood as describing God’s coming Messiah!
Throughout this season of Advent, we will be exploring texts from the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is an Advent practice in which the stories of salvation history leading up to the birth of Jesus are remembered and celebrated. On the Jesse Tree, each of the readings would be represented by a symbol ornament, which is hung on a barren tree branch that people often say looks a little like the Christmas tree from Charlie Brown. Drawing readings from the practice of the Jesse Tree, each day of Advent we will read a passage from the Old Testament or early in the Gospels that help us to get ready for the coming of the Messiah who came over 2000 years ago, who promised to return in the future, and who comes to us in big and small ways even today. These passages and the reflections of church members upon them remind us of the great covenants that God has made with humanity, which find their fulfillment in Christ. They remind us that the New Testament is in radical continuity with the Old Testament, and that the person and the teachings of Jesus can only be fully understood in the light of the stories and traditions that he embodied, and sometimes transformed.
Throughout this season of Advent, let us watch with the hope that that sprig of life from the dead stump of Jesse instills within us, and may that sprig of life grow in us as well!
Loving God, we praise and thank you for your providential guidance of the great arc or history. We praise and thank you for the great cloud of witnesses that have prepared us to welcome the coming of the Messiah. Prepare our hearts and our lives this Advent season to welcome the new life Christ offers us even today. Amen.
About the Contributor:
Rev. Craig Foster is our Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Communications. He and his wife (Kellie) and three kids (Jack, Sam, and Robin) have been part of the First Presbyterian community since 2009.
Interested in learning more about the Jesse Tree or creating one for your home?
Visit www.faithward.org/jesse-tree for information and printable ornaments that go along with the readings in this book.