Imagine an ideal political leader or Supreme Court justice. What skills would he or she possess? What characteristics might be her trademarks? What might he wear? A belt of righteousness or of faithfulness might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Judges using neither their eyes nor ears seem odder still; keen observation and clear vision are highly prized in leaders and decision-makers. Isaiah’s descriptions of the salvific figure in our passage, however, remind us that the “shoot” or new life of the Messiah we have come to identify as Jesus does not conform to the usual image of things. Out of the good roots of the Hebrew heritage, Jesus brings fresh ways of being. Those new patterns are the surprising Peaceable Kingdom, or the kingdom of heaven, throughout our texts this week.
In our Advent preparations to welcome in this new king, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we are ready for a leader who wears garments of righteousness and faithfulness rather than designer labels or trendy fair trade apparel. Are we ready for a judge not swayed by finely spoken words or proper appearances? We speak with joy about the promise of Christ’s birth, but we get caught up in the very things—what we see and hear—by which our Lord “shall not judge.” We let gossip in the church bias us against one another or allow social media posts to lead us into all sorts of assumptions. We judge whether people “fit” our congregation by how they dress or speak. In this time of Advent, the new life of our Messiah calls us to new forms of judgment based not in what we can see and hear but in wisdom, understanding, and the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Lord of all, grow your new life into my life. Help me not to judge by hearsay or appearances but by what is faithful, just, and loving. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah describes a root from the family of Jesse, that is the family of David, that will rule fairly and usher in an age of peace. The psalmist extols the virtues of a royal son who defends the poor and the oppressed and causes righteousness and peace to abound. Christians traditionally read these psalms as prophecies about Jesus Christ. Paul in Romans quotes several prophetic passages from the Hebrew scriptures, but he begins by emphasizing that those writings were given for our instruction. Christianity without the Hebrew scriptures lacks its foundations. Just as we prepare our hearts during Advent for the arrival of the Christ child, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus in Matthew.
Read Isaiah 11:1-10. What appeals to you in Isaiah’s vision for The Peaceable Kingdom? What challenges you?
Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. Consider the ways you lead in your church, community, or work. How do you nurture the life God has created in these environments? How can you better lead toward God’s righteousness, justice, and peace?
Read Romans 15:4-13. How can you welcome others as Christ has welcomed you?
Read Matthew 3:1-12. How can you prepare yourself to accept a wild or risky proclamation of God’s kingdom?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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