A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1).
The prophet Isaiah, like most prophets, had a difficult job. God called him to warn Jerusalem that since they had done so much evil they would be cut down like a tree. God also called Isaiah to offer Jerusalem a word of hope – that a new leader would arise to not only restore Jerusalem, but to make Jerusalem a blessing to other nations. This new leader would be born to a virgin and be named ‘Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14), which means, ‘God is with us’. This new leader would be like a new young shoot, arising out of the apparently dead stump of a fallen nation (Isaiah 11:1).
The birth of Jesus at Christmas was the fulfillment of that hope. Jesus was and continues to be ‘God with us’. As a fragile and vulnerable baby born to a virgin, he was that fragile and vulnerable ‘shoot’ which came from the ‘stump’ of a broken nation. Through his subsequent life, death and resurrection Jesus not only brought about a new-found hope for the citizens of Jerusalem, but for the entire world.
If you want to go looking for hope, you usually don’t find it in places where everything is going well. It’s not needed there. Rather, hope is found in the context of where things aren’t going so well and for most of us that has been our context this past year.
COVID, the increasing demands of students and parents, the wellbeing of ourselves and others are just the start of the challenges that have been laid before us this year and may possibly be carried into the new year. It is into this context that hope is so vitally important, as it is the one thing that carries us through and helps us to face the future with confidence.
No one is denying what a difficult year this has been and what difficult questions remain unanswered as we look to the start of a new year. In the midst of this I encourage you with words from the book of Hebrews:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,
for he who promised is faithful. (10:23)
Let us continue to remember how faithful God has been to us in the past, how he has been the answer of our hope countless times. And let us continue to recall his promise to be Immanuel, God is with us, into our future challenges and struggles. As we cling to this hope this doesn’t mean that things will necessarily turn out the way that we have in mind. What it does mean though, is that we can face the future with confidence knowing that God walks with us. With God on our side, he will provide us with ways forward that we may never have thought of which not only benefit us, but can also be a source of blessing to those around us as well.
Spiritual & Cultural Leader