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If you were here last week, you may remember the invitation to get on board the train heading toBethlehem… where we will meet the Lord… on the way there today, I invite you to look for signs…
If you were living in the time of Isaiah—a time of war… a time when it looked like the end of the line for God’s people… as they are under attack… the sign you might expect to see is “Dead End”. For they looked like a people who were at the end of the line.
Some people still feel that way today… They see no hope… for our world…our nation… even in their personal lives… Talk to them and they’ll say there no reason to look ahead because the best days are behind… and the signs are bleak… One member shared on facebook a license plate she spotted. It read: ENDTIMES.
The people in Isaiah’s community would understand that sign.
But Isaiah offers them a different sign for them to encourage them during these dark times.
As it looked like the end of the line for Israel—the family of Jesse… of David… all that was going to be left was a stump… which is all most people could see… a dead stump… out of that dead stump, Isaiah sees something else: a branch… one of those sprigs you see pop up on those stumps of old trees… He offered that as a sign that as bad as it looked, God was not done… He wanted to let them know it was not the end…
As the guy in the movie Marigold Hotel said: Everything will be all right in the end and if everything’s not all right, it’s not the end.
Isaiah would agree…
So he offers this sign: It is not the end, because God will be sending someone to bring hope to the people… the Spirit of the Lord will rest with this one… he will be wise… he will judge with fairness… he will decide with equity for the meek of the earth… and when his work is done… wolves and lions, cows and bears – republicans and democrats and independents—will live side by side in peace. Children shall be safe from all harm and you won’t be afraid to send them out to play in the streets…
For us, of course, the sign that one who comes is to be found in Bethlehem, in a stable… in a manger… Centuries later… we look there to see the branch shoot up from the root of Jesse… he is coming from David’s family – a royal dynasty that had died off centuries ago.
The birth of Jesus, from the family of Jesse… is the sign that God is not done with this busted and broken world… that God has come to bring hope to the hopeless and peace to those whose lives are shattered by inward or outward circumstances…
That’s the message in the music today pointing the way for us.
As one line says,
“Thus we were heirs to endless woes, till God the Lord did interpose, and so a promise soon did run that he would redeem us by his Son”
As you listen to the choir… watch… look… listen…for the sign God is giving us… follow that sign…and you’ll be well on your way to Bethlehem.