A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Wow! Just wow! It’s time to train our eyes to see the beatific vision, to hone our sight on the horizon, to learn to behold the glorious state of the future. In order to do this, we must rid ourselves of the soul’s cancer: cynicism. The cynic cloaks himself in the wise disguise of a realist. Truth be told, realism is just another name for a defeated idealism. Cynicism is the bitter fruit of a desecrated imagination. Cynicism treats the sickness of our hopelessness with the topical ointment of our thinly veiled anger.
Newsflash: the Bible is not a book of idealism but of realism. Here’s the vision of biblical realism:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The Holy Spirit longs to fill and feed our anemic imaginations with such vision. Will we let him? It starts with dwelling on such words. No time like Advent to begin.
So why do we rush to those angry, armchair, dime-store prophets who can only assuage our fears by blaming the Republicans or the Democrats? Advent calls saying, “Listen to these prophets of the arduous and adjacent possible. Let them encompass your weary imagination. They offer no easy solutions. They impart vision. We perish without it.” That’s what cynicism is: dead people who still have a pulse. But remember, a pulse means there’s still a possibility.
It’s time that we come to terms with this fact: the return of the Lord is a good thing. Is it not? But, you say, there are so many people I know who are not ready for this—the end of all things broken and the fulfillment of all things made new. And so, the Advent New Year’s question of questions: What about these people you love? Have you spoken to them concerning the end of all things broken and the fulfillment of all things made new? And how about you? Are you ready? If not, there is only one good reason.
It is because you are not sure the return of the Lord is a good thing.
Think about it. The return of the Lord means no more child slavery. No more sex trade. No more cancer. No more drug addiction. No more tears. No more terrorism. No more war. No more starvation. No more wheelchairs. The sheen of newness everywhere. The contagion of gladness spreading, filling the earth “as the waters cover the sea.”
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. You will indeed fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. I confess my cynical outlook; I have allowed the low-bar discourse of this world and its news to lower the tide of your good news in my soul. Open my mind and heart to more of your Word, to more of you. Come, Holy Spirit, wake me up, and make all of this fiercely practical in these days of Advent. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who has come, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Spend the next five minutes simply reading and ruminating over the biblical text for today. It is medicine for your soul. Only the therapy of Word and Spirit can cure the soul’s cancer of cynicism. How deep do the roots of cynicism go into your soul?
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