Advent is a season to celebrate the “coming” and the “arrival” of the Rescuer who would fix the messed up things in this world. Advent is also the time of year when the days get shorter and shorter, and sometimes miserably cold and people yearn for relief from the darkness.
Today I read one of my favorite passages of Scripture about the promise God made to His people about what He would do in response to our dark world.
Isaiah 11:1–10 (NIV) reads:
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD— 3 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; 4 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. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 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. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
It is clear in the first paragraph that this leader would be different than the “leaders” of the world. He would lead through God’s power and wisdom, through “the Spirit.” He would lead not according to his own preferences, but rather according to justice and righteousness. He would care for the poor. And he would execute both mercy and justice for the oppressed.
As for the second paragraph, verses 6-10, this is one of my favorite passages to think about what is in store for the future of the people of God. Have you ever encountered the death of a loved one and felt the helplessness, sadness and anger about it? There is something inside of us that cries out that death was not supposed to be a part of life, our hearts say "this is not the way it was supposed to be," and I think this passage encourages us that there will come a time when death itself will die.
Death, violence and fear will be a thing of the past. Even the animals will all get along and live together in beautiful diversity and unity, and people will be restored to our rightful place over creation. Sounds almost "crazy" to us it's so unbelievable, doesn't it? But according to this even children will be able to safely lead vipers and bulls (sounds almost like Narnia doesn't it)! Does this picture look silly to you? Well what if this picture of life in this passage is reality, and when we look back our world will look crazy and unbelievable? In fact I just recently talked with my children and our neighbors who are children about this passage and not surprisingly they had absolutely no problem believing that it will happen someday.
All this is to say to you today that this Truth, I think, is what Christmas is really about: the restoration of hope, peace and joy, and the death of fear, violence, injustice and death itself through this one Person, Jesus. The “rescue mission” from God is not fully complete yet (for a time death is permitted to exist so more people can be saved), but take heart because death’s days are numbered and the future will be so good that we will actually completely forget these dark, cold days of winter.