Dear people of Bethlehem,
Blessed Advent to you all. The prophet Isaiah says, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.” Advent is the time of our hope and expectation. It is the waiting season. Waiting for light to shatter darkness. I can recall the expectation of childhood. Every light, on every house was a symbol that we were one day closer, one moment nearer to Christmas. At night, I would curl up on the couch in the living room, near where our Christmas tree stood, and marvel at the twinkling lights in the darkened room. Each seemed to me the promise of what was coming. My childhood was sometimes complicated, and close to the tree, my young heart found her peace. The hope was palpable. Fully grown now, the same symbols still capture my imagination. They still conjure up hope for me.
Advent feels like a particular gift this year, because of its gentle hope. We are in need of good news. We are in need of peace on earth. We are in need of peace in our own hearts. The rush to Christmas is not what is needed this year. We are in need of the gentle, slow pace of hope slowly rising. In Isaiah’s day, as the people of Israel were suffering, the words of the prophet did not promise light that would shatter every darkness. No, when the cedars are cut down and every bough is cut off, the prophet promises only this, “A shoot shall come from the stump of Jesse.” I wonder, is that enough? Don’t we need the whole forest? Don’t we need to shatter every present darkness? I’m not sure that we do, and I am equally certain that it is not possible. From our God, there comes a different kind of promise — one that begins with a small child in a manger.
I love the honesty of it all. Not everything will be set right tomorrow, but as theologian Barbara Lundblad says, “What if we believe this fragile sign is God’s beginning?” What if we believe the tender shoot is enough, the child is enough, the promise is enough, the hope is enough. Perhaps then, we can attend to the small seedling of hope in our hearts. That place where our faith lives, that place where hope may break through our hurt and touch our hearts. We need not await the full forest. God did not wait. God came on a single night, into one stable, with a single star in the night sky. And that, was all the world needed. That, is all you and I still need.
May you be blessed with every joy and grace this Christmas, every small miracle and every flickering light of hope. May the gentle blessing of this Christmas find you and fill you with peace.
God bless you, and Merry Christmas to you all,