(Advent 2A) A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11: 1-10)
Yes, another reading about that future vision that God holds for us. Advent is harder than we thought it was. After all, we assumed that we just had these four weeks to prepare for Christmas (challenging enough by itself!) and we keep getting hit with the prospect of preparing for what is essentially the “Great Unknown”. I mean, God gives us this vision pretty plainly but wolves cavorting with lambs and calves and lions sharing an abode and all of this being led by a child may be just too much to fathom. In the words of Mary at that fateful encounter with the angel, “How can this be?”
Maybe that’s our whole problem. Maybe we have not allowed ourselves or risked ourselves or trained ourselves to imagine something other than what we know. We are pretty locked in. Most of us have planned our tomorrows and possibly even the day-afters and we get really irritated when someone has a different idea. In other words, those pesky new shoots that keep getting in the way of our perfectly trimmed hedge around our lives are sometimes just downright irritating.
So this season of Advent comes along as the great reminder that life does not and cannot go as planned. Thanks be to God for that! As we walk this season of remembering that coming of God into the world 2,000 years ago as Jesus Christ and at the same time looking toward the coming of God’s Reign in its fullness into the world that we now know, we are acutely aware that we live between two ways of being. With our feet planted in this earth that still bears the marks of poverty and homelessness, of terrorism and war, of disunity and disregard of the rights and lives of others even at our own back door, we are called to imagine something different, something more, something beyond what we have.
We are the ones that live between night and day. The night is reaching toward us, calling us, desperately needing our voices and our hearts to bring it into the light. And up ahead in the faint distance is the Light that we ourselves crave so badly. It would be so easy to just go and leave all this mess behind. But that is not the plan. Between night and day is where we are called to be. That is the lesson of Advent. And here, here is where we are called to imagine God’s vision into being. We are not called to passively wait for the coming of God but rather to actively imagine this world the way God does and do our part to make it happen. So, dare to imagine what God does.
If I cannot find the face of Jesus in the face of those who are my enemies, if I cannot find him in the unbeautiful, if I cannot find him in those who have the “wrong ideas,” if I cannot find him in the poor and the defeated, how will I find him in the bread and wine, or in the life after death? If I do not reach out in this world to those with whom he has identified himself, why do I imagine that I will want to be with him, and them, in heaven? Why would I want to be for all eternity in the company of those I avoided every day of my life? (Jim Forest)
FOR TODAY: What do you dare to imagine of God’s vision?