Did you ever get to a point in your life where you felt that it was over? You look to your future with weary eyes and you hear a voice inside you that says “the best of life is behind you.” I have to admit that as I approach the heart of middle age – still single no less! – I battle such thinking at times.
Or, did you ever get to the point where you felt an increasing lack of hope for the world? This could easily be one such time. With the great global economic downturn, terrorism, dictators, violence and increasing poverty, it is an easy time to feel hopeless and hear the voices that say “the best is behind us.”
Yet Advent points us to a time of hope, instead of despair. And it does so not from the vantage point of a privileged ivory tower looking at us and telling us to hang in there, it’ll get better. It does so from the mess, the stuff that is sometimes our lives. Christ was not born into privilege. He was born in a shit filled, smelly stable. Christ was not born into a time of peace and tranquility. He was born in a time of great strife, oppression and political unrest. And it was into such a time that a Word of hope was whispered!
Today, I was reading Isaiah 11: 1-10, one of those great readings often read in the Advent season. I must have read this reading a hundred times and something struck me as it never has before. “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The word “stump” leapt out from the page. It says a shoot shall sprout from a “STUMP.” A stump is the remains of a dead tree. And it is from this lifeless thing that new and abundant life will arise!
Suddenly I felt a gentle nudge from God. “You may think the best is behind you. You may think that the best in our world and your life is now a ruin. But hold on, for from this seeming lifelessness new life will bloom, new chapters will be written.”
“There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain.”