Sermon – December 8, 2013 – Second Sunday of Advent

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

Whether it is biologically accurate or not, when I think of a stump, I think of something no longer living. Something that is dead. Something that has been cut-off, something isolated. A useless remnant, slowly eroding away. This image of a stump is an image of despair—there are no possibilities, nothing to hope for, nothing to count on. A stump is a stump, and that’s all it will ever be.

Our world—and our lives—are filled with stumps. Places of hopelessness. Places of violence that stand no chance of ever meeting peace. Things that are beyond repair. Things that drain us and those around us of life, making us feel as though we are eroding away. Homelessness, poverty, mass-shootings, war. Discontent, divorce, discord, disease. These are our stumps, and there are no possibilities here, nothing to hope for, nothing to count on. Just stumps.

As part of this season of advent, I am reading a book—it is called The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. It’s a compilation of essays and stories and poems, and I’d like to read one story to you now. This story is entitled Mountain Music, and it is written by Scott Russell Sanders, a professor of English at Indiana University. So sit back, relax, and enjoy storytime…

(Insert Mountain Music, by Scott Russell Sanders)

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

This is our source of hope. It is here we are invited to look. In the midst of a world littered with stumps comes a shoot. Comes possibility. Comes hope. Comes life. And this shoot—this hope, this life—is none other than God in flesh, God with us, Jesus the Christ. His coming to dwell among us—his coming into what is hopeless and despairing and violent and crooked is just what we need. He is the source of hope in our vast, barren landscape of stumps.

When stumps are all we can see, we look for the shoot—for Christ. For he is coming. The child for whom we wait this advent season is coming, and with his coming, righteousness will come. Equity will come. Faithfulness will come. And peace will come—perfect, deep, wolf-living-with-the-lamb peace.

Isaiah foretells that out of nothing will come something. That out of death will come life. That out of despair will come hope. That out of violence will come peace. This coming one, this shoot of God taking root among us, springing up out of our stumps—he is the source of hope to which we look. And he is the source of hope to which we beckon: Come, Come, Come.