Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Stumps and Stars

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)
I don’t know if you’ve looked at a tree stump recently. I was about to say, “me neither”, when I remembered the huge storm/tornado Chicago experienced this summer. Hundreds of trees around the city were felled by a single hour of wind, rain, and hail. Left behind were stumps, signs that the trees was no longer living. Their growth had been cut off.

This is what Isaiah is describing. This mighty tree of Jesse’s line . . . it has become a stump. Ancestry was especially important to the people of ancient Israel. But the royal line of David faltered. Time passed. The reign of Jesse’s son became but a glorious memory.

But wait! Isaiah foretells of a time when a shoot will spring forth from the dormant tree stump. A shoot with such strength and might that its new branches will bud, and blossom, and bear fruit! Hope is not lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien called this a eucatastrophe. It is the opposite of a catastrophe. When all hope appears to be lost, a sudden reversal of events changes the story’s trajectory, for good. The lineage of slaves, wanderers, shepherds, kings, and exiles becomes a lineage of expectation, awaiting the final Son.

Fast forward to the book of Revelation. In chapter 22, Jesus says,
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16).
This is only the second time Jesus is recorded as calling himself by name. He is making His position clear, drawing not only from his time on Earth as a descendant of David’s line, but from Isaiah’s centuries-old prophecy about who the Messiah would be.

But that is not the only thing Jesus proclaims. After affirming His lineage, He says, “I am . . . the bright morning star.”

There is a proverb, first penned by 17th century English theologian Thomas Fuller that goes, “It is always darkest just before the dawn.” While this is not a scientific fact, it is in line with the motif of Jesse’s stump. From death to life; from darkness to light. When Jesus identifies as the Bright Morning Star, He is heralding His return as the dawn of a new day.  2 Peter 1:19b reminds us, "You will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." When the Bright Morning Star begins His final reign, we will have no more need of prophecies and stars, of wisemen or kings.

I’ll end with a poem. Right around Advent last year, I stumbled upon Amelia’s website, Innocence Abroad, when a poem of hers was shared by The Rabbit Room. I was immediately drawn in and inspired. This is a kindred spirit! I knew I wanted to share some of her Advent poetry on my blog. So with her permission, here is “Await”:

by Amelia Freidline
through ages long we wait the One
whose coming will mean night is done
with the morning’s dawn
sorrow will be gone
and ever on
rise the Son

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