06 December 2005

An Advent Homily - Isaiah 11:1-10

Advent Homily II

Doesn’t the world that Isaiah describes to us almost sound like a fairy-tale world? A fantasy world where wolves bed down next to lambs and lions cuddle with little goats, where calves and young lions frolic together in spring pastures, where a little child leads out the animals to play, where Bessie the cow and Griffin the Grizzley munch grass side by side, while their offspring snooze peacefully next to each other in the noon day sun. And the little nursing baby who plays by the cobra’s hole and the toddler reaching down to pet the sweet little vipers in their den. A world where there is neither hurting, nor destroying, a world without hostility and without death, a world filled with the knowledge of the Lord as full as the sea is of water.

But then we shake our wise heads and say: Nice, dream, old Isaiah! Wouldn’t it be a dandy world if it were true! Walking among the grizzlies at night, petting the wolves, playing with the snakes and never fearing. A world where humanity and all the creation lived in perfect and loving harmony. Yeah. Get real. That’s just not the world as it is, and it never will be. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and nothing’s going to change that. So we speak in our wisdom, which is really our great folly.

For Isaiah didn’t preface his words with: “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” Isaiah wasn’t spinning you some dream of his own fancy. Isaiah was speaking to you the words of Him who is the Truth. Isaiah looked into the future and saw God’s world as it was meant to be and as He would surely make it be again. Time to dump the worldly wisdom that knows what can and can’t be and open your eyes wide to see what God can do!

You see, we take the fallen state of the world as its natural state. We assume that the way things are now is how they have always been and will always be. But when we do that, we are denying the faith – whether we know it or not. For our faith is that it is precisely the FALLENNESS of this world which will pass away. The hostility of each to each, the fighting and the clawing, the grasping and the taking, the anger and the death, the bloodshed and the war, of animals and of men – THAT is what is doomed to fail. With Isaiah’s words, we get a bead on the future that is surely coming.

And that future is tied up intimately with Rod that comes from Jesse’s stem, the Branch that grows from his roots, the Scion of the Royal House of David, come in these last days, with the Spirit of the Lord resting on Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord, the Spirit that brings the real knowledge of this world and ourselves and all things as they were meant to be and as they shall be again. And so this Prince from David’s house will not be like other people. He won’t believe just what he sees – the world as it is. No. He sees the truth, the deepest truth about this world and all its inhabitants: he sees and knows and believes that His Father did not make us to die; He did not make us attack each other and live in enmity.

He came among us and dared to live among us the future – for His was the heart without retaliation or anger! His was the life of turning the other cheek. His was the conviction that Love is stronger than all of the hatred and violence and death of this world. And His conviction He lived. He lived that future, and because He lived it, because He brought it among us, we killed Him and He died.

Was he wrong then? The viper bit. The wolf chowed down. The lion devoured. Human hands wielded whip and hammer and nails. He groaned and gave up the ghost. Was it really just the same old world after all, and Isaiah’s words just a pipe dream?

No. You know that it was not so. For though He died, His death was to destroy death. It was to let loose a love and a hope into this world that no darkness would ever be able to overcome ever again. He was raised from the dead and in a body that is forever beyond death. His body already belongs to the world that is to come, the world Isaiah saw as the future of this world.

And so His people are blessed to live their lives oriented toward the arrival of that future. We know that in this world there are still animals out there with sharp claws and teeth; we also know that some of them walk on two feet. We know that there are snakes that bite, and some of them speak with human tongues. But more than that we know that no matter WHAT they do, their hostility makes them all in danger of extinction. They will not inhabit the world that is coming. That’s the world we are called to live toward. The world where all things work together and not against, where love rules all, and where Children lead the way.

And so He came a Child in the night. The heaven’s blazed a star in joy. The angels brought good news of great joy to all people: A Savior was born. A Savior from the dead end world of bloody claw and death. A Savior who would bring an end to death itself. Glory to God in the highest and on earth – yes, on earth – peace, good will toward men. The Root of Jesse stands as a banner, a rallying place for all people and His place of rest is glorious. Come and live beneath the banner of manger and cross, come and live among the lions and bears and wolves and snakes who have all been rendered peaceful by the Prince of Peace. Come and shout out in the darkness of this world that its future will be Light and Love. Amen.

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