- Isaiah 11:1-10
- Psalm 72 (VU p.790)
- Isaiah 35:1-10
The Sermon title is Growth from Death
Early Thoughts: The world is cold and dark. Trees are leafless. The earth has gone to sleep. This is when we talk about growth?
As a matter of fact yes it is. The Isaiah passages this week talk about a shoot from the stump of Jesse and flowers blooming in the desert. They remind us that the Christmas story, which is but a part of the larger Christian story, is about life that conquers death, about growth when all seems lost.
Near the end of Lord of the Rings, after the Ring has been destroyed and Sauron vanquished, Gandalf lead Aragorn out of the city to a place of wilderness. Aragorn is searching for a sign of hope, that the kingdom will be restored and his line established. Gandalf counsels him to turn away from the city and look out into the barren wilderness. There Aragorn sees a sapling of the White Tree (it had been foretold that as long as the Withe Tree survived so would the line of Kings). In the midst of desolation hope for Gondor and Arnor is growing.
Another story. When they visit Godric's Hollow Harry and Hermione see an inscription "The last enemy to be defeated is death". By the end of the book we know what that means. Through embracing and defeating death Harry brings victory and peace.
A third. Near the beginning of Ursula LeGuin's novel A Wizard of Earthsea the young wizard Ged, while trying to show off his skills at school, accidentally releases a dark force into the world. Ged runs from this force throughout the book but in the end conquers it by realizing that it is the shadow of his own death. Victory came by acknowledging the reality of death.
And so we come to the Christmas story. Isaiah knows about death. Isaiah warns people about the darkness that is coming, the destruction that is coming. And yet Isaiah has a vision of what lies beyond the destruction. When all is laid waste a shoot will come up out of a dead stump. New growth will come. When all looks desolate a change will come and the desert will bloom. Joy shall come even to the wilderness.
If we let it, the fear of death and desolation can control our lives. It can lead us to that place of despair. But the life of faith calls us to look beyond the death and desolation that seems to come too regularly. Our statement of faith (A New Creed) closes with these words "In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God."
This Christmas what sign of new life do you see where you might have expected to see wilderness and desolation?