The Hebrew lesson on Sunday was that great passage from Isaiah that predicts that the “stump of Jesse” (King David’s father) would spout again. Isaiah wrote in a day when the nation had fallen and no monarch ruled from Jesse or David’s lineage, though they believed God had promised that someone always would. From this apparently dead stump, Isaiah says that hope will spring forth again.
That is the message of this season: in the darkest time, a new light breaks forth. The human capacity for hope is remarkable. Barbara Brown Taylor said, “Christmas almost succeeds in making humans what God intended them to be all along.”
At the same time, however, this is also a season of our greatest pain and despair. For some, it seems life is forever winter, but never Christmas. There is something about this season that makes us all too aware of our wildernesses. We recognize our need for God’s salvation. Will it come to us as it has come to others, or will we be left to wander aimlessly in our wilderness? We stand like poor children with our noses pressed against a department store window.
What will prepare us for the coming of the salvation of God?
- What will open our lives for the peaceful reign of Christ?
- What will make our stumps of our life spout again?
To your wilderness and mine the voice cries a single word: HOPE. Without hope, all is lost.
It is no accident that when Dante described the gates of hell all those centuries ago he saw written over the portal the words, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Hopelessness is a state of hell.
Dr. John Claypool, in a sermon entitled “The Presumption of Despair,” explains that whenever we allow ourselves to reach the level of despair in any area of life we are presuming that either:
God is not there or God does not care or God is not good. The German theologian Jürgen Moltmann wrote, “Hope is the only realistic outlook on life because hope alone takes seriously all of the possibilities from which reality will be born. Hope alone figures God into life’s formula.”
What he is saying is that despair is nothing more than presuming that the negative and the worst-case scenario are true. Despair is focusing on and empowering the bad. Hope is focusing on and empowering the salvation God has planned for us. Hope prepares us for the possibilities of a future in the hands of a good and loving God. Hope focuses on the good God might be able to bring from our struggles. Hope believes God can cause a stump to sprout.
My prayer is that today you seen a new sprig of green in your own life.
by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal