11 “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” ~ Isaiah 11:1(NRSVACE)
Jesse was the father of King David. The ornaments of the Jesse tree represent the prophecies, God’s people, and events that led up to the birth of Jesus.
When I was a child every December my dad would put up the Christmas Tree and we would decorate with very cute ornaments, I didn’t think much about the ornaments at the time. There were pretty little harps, an apple, ark, dove etc. As I grew older and attended bible class I made the connection that the ornaments we decorated our Christmas Tree with symbolized the stories and characters of the Old Testament. During the Advent season, we are called to wait and prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. Like in everything in life we need to prepare. You might question yourself, ‘How can I prepare for this momentous event?’ or maybe, ‘What do I do first in order that I will be prepared adequately?’ As a child, my dad taught me our faith, what we needed to do to be prepared. In fact, from an early age, I remember thinking deeply about the events of the bible and how the Bible tells us the stories of preparation that the people of God underwent while waiting for His miracles to be fullfilled.
Other memories I have during Advent was going to church every Sunday and listening to the priest remind the whole community to pray, repent, forgive so we can receive Jesus Christ; receive His precious gifts of hope, peace, joy, and of love. As practicing Catholics and followers of Christ we are called to share those gifts with the rest of the world, so that way our world of jealousy and gossip can come to an end. God made a promise to Abraham’s family that He would bless his family and would always protect them. We follow God because He is the only one that will give us what we need when we feel alone, sad, depressed, hurt, or upset. God comforts us and He protects us just as He did Abraham’s many descendants. Advent is a time to really think about these things; to take the lessons of the Old Testament and apply them to our lives today. Each time I do this I can see how much in common we are with the characters found in the bible.
As a teacher myself I am always humbled and reminded how much my kids at school are like I was when I was their age, they ask the same questions such as, “but it is hard to follow Jesus’s steps” I always remind them that, “Yes, no one said it was easy and for Jesus himself it was not easy. But what we need to do is to be in constant prayer so we can always choose God.” After saying this another student said, “Advent is about change.” Smiling I encouraged that thought with, “Yes, during Advent we are called to change and renew our hearts just like God’s people from the Old Testament.”
When we decide to choose God we receive many blessings from Him. That is why the Jesse Tree is another important symbol for the Advent Season; so the kids can understand that each ornament is much more than just decoration, instead, it is the family tree of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Powerful Teaching Tool: You might want to go over your own chronological family tree with your kids at home. Using this model they will begin to relate it to the family of Jesus.
Jesse Tree symbols and passages in the Old Testament were designed to show how the coming of Jesus had been predicted hundreds of years before his birth fulfilling them within the New Testament. When decorating your tree beginning on the first day of Advent place the first ornament. Each day after that in order until Christmas Eve until each ornament is on the tree. Below are the symbols traditionally used to put on the Jesse Tree;
3 “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'” ~ Isaiah 40:3(NRSVACE)
In this season of preparation, self-reflection, and in accord with the theme of Advent we have now reached an important milestone of how we receive our savior. In that this preparation for a savior, the son of man, is an idea that spans time. It is an idea which was deeply ingrained in our human ‘higher cognitive process’ or in our way of thinking about God Himself. Prophet Isaiah taught that God is compassionate, loving, forgiving, and in those writings can be found the promise of salvation. This intangible, unattainable, most elusive promise of God called ‘salvation’ was also rooted deep within the people of Judah, for it was as much on their minds in the 8th century before Christ as it is ours today. Simply put my brothers and sisters, salvation takes center stage in the need for a savior, it demands there to be great preparations so that this singular event could come to fruition. In the first post of this Advent Season, “Adventus – Time of Preparation“, we can see God’s plan for a savior. In the second posting of this Advent Season, “The Christmas Angel – Gabriel“, we see and celebrate God’s plan now put into action. In this, the third posting of this Advent Season we focus on yet another player sent by God which helps us navigate His complex roadmap that is designed to produce a savior – enter Isaiah the Greatest of all the Prophets. For the preparation that he delivers to us is one of ‘hope’; the spreading of this central idea that our savior comes and that he fulfills the prophecies told to countless millions throughout the ages. This same ‘hope’ remains as meaningful for those who had first experienced it as it still has for us today. For the plan was to spread the word first, then act upon it, and now to receive all the blessings that come with this new covenant with God. This season of preparing for Christ makes us ready to renew our love, faith, understanding, grace, and humility that Jesus himself bestowed all of which was rooted within the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah. For God granted Isaiah a special relevance within history; one that rings the bells and foretells the blessings that God pours out from Heaven; the first draft of what was to come.
1 “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”’ ~ Mark 1:1-3(NRSVACE)
Isaiah foretell’s a forerunner to Christ, a person who would set the stage for salvation through repentance – enter John the Baptist. John serves as a messenger, as a baptiser filled with the holy spirit. He was first mentioned by the Angel Gabriel to our Mother Mary at her conception, then later Mary visits Elizabeth her cousin, the mother of John and he leaps in her womb. Nothing more is recorded until we get to the story of Jesus who stands before John in the river Jordan. John was a giant in his day, teaching about the coming of the Messiah, the savior and of the kingdom to come. The way to make your own personal path straight was through the act of baptizing, or submersion into water. Water universally had been the symbol of cleansing and was deeply rooted in the Jewish world with having to bathe before entering the temple. Jesus uses water to wash the feet of his disciples at the end of his ministry. But John takes this idea of salvation even higher through the process of baptizing as he states clearly;
“7 ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” ~ Mark 1:7-8(NRSVACE)
Again, the hope for a far greater more powerful authority, one to which the heavens and earth belong, the promise of salvation within the coming savior, son of God; all of which is still within the realm of preparation. John was tellings us to get right with God! He was bringing people closer to our creator through the only method available at the time; baptize. But more to the point John was also not neglecting to support the mainstream school of thought established by the writings and teaching of Isaiah. In many ways, these two men help us to receive our Lord and Savior in the right way, in the most meaningful of ways. The very message of salvation starts with getting your life in line with God’s plan for you, getting ready for the conversion of mind, heart, body, and soul. To be prepared for the coming of Christ Jesus so that your heart is renewed and your faith restored. To receive Jesus as our savior in the hope of his triumphant return.
Primary Goal: To Always Image Christ in Mind, Heart, Body, and Soul.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 59.9
Many times I have heard that God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath, of punishment, a God of testing, and of laws which placed many conditions upon His people. Very different God from the New Testament who is a God of mercy, forgiveness, and of love. But I argue this point and ask you all to consider this about our God. Our God in heaven has never changed because he can not change, He is forever the God of love, mercy, forgiveness, and yes He is also the God of judgement and punishment, and from last weeks Reflection we see He takes no pleasure from punishing the wicked instead He only wishes them to turn away from their wickedness and come back to Him. This clearly demonstrates that our God is a God of many chances. Our God loves us, He has always loved us and the only thing that has changed is humanity. The greatest of all miracles can be found in this one simple thing, His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His love is of a different order than our love, and God seeks and has always sought to love each and everyone of us since before we where born. It is humanity that has changed, we have forever altered how God can respond to us and thus changed the conditions in which God shows His love in your life;
59 “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. 4 No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.” ~ Isaiah 59:1-4
In Isaiah we can clearly see that it is not God who has lied, spoken falsely, or have blood upon His hands. In fact it is our sin, our lack in faith, our indiscretions which God has had to deal with over our short history here on earth. Think of each lie told as a small needle which God has had to defend against, each word uttered to condemn an innocent person to death as a razor blade cutting away at Gods justice, and look at each action that harms another human being done purposefully as a sword thrusted into the side of Jesus and then you will have just barely scratched the surface to the pain and suffering our Lord endured upon the cross.
2 “And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would beborn blind ?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents ; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” ~ John 9:2-3
By sending Jesus, God again shows His unyielding love for all man kind, He finds the most awesome ways to prove His love over and over again. In healing a blind man who was blind from birth Jesus illustrates His love and mercy for us. This miracle is a two fold miracle, one that shows the power of God, but also shows the love of God. The lesson Jesus was teaching was that it mattered not to the blind man whether it be day or night, but as long as Jesus was in the world His light would penetrate every soul and make them see, even the blind who where blind from birth a medical condition which there is no cure. But moreover, this miracle shows that it matters not what we suffer, that God can take that suffering and us it to glorify Him, to bless us, and to show to others His unchanging love.
4 “We must work the works of Him who sentMe as long as it is day ; night is coming when no one can work. 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” ~ John 9:4-5
The very notion of being the “Light of the World” is one that also proves Gods love, and the lengths He has gone to not just save us, but to also lift us up in His perfect love despite the many sins we have committed. The term Jesus uses is a technical one in heavenly speech, a term that Satan knows well as he was once the Morning Star in heaven. Jesus is the truth, the light, and all who follow will walk in ever lasting life. Satan, does not want this, so the scriptures tell us that Satan entered into Judas to betrayed Jesus. Think for a moment how glorified God was within this moment, think how magnificent God is to be able to shine through this great deception of darkness. Understand that God not just opened the eyes of a blind man, but of all men and women on this planet in that one moment of darkness, the light of the world indeed still shown through it.
Because we have so completely changed the scope of how God communicates, and how he sends His divine love to us each occasion is then an opportunity for God to prove His love in our life, even in times of our greatest suffering. The bible points out four unique types of suffering which we endure, that are in large part connected to our sinful nature, thus connecting suffering with sin. The first is found as follows:
22 “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” ~ Genesis 22:1-2
2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” ~ Deuteronomy 8:2
6 “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” ~ Job 1:6-12
In these three examples God uses person strife to work the biggest miracles. He uses every occasion to test and mold each one of us into a more perfect person. He tests us to prove our loyalty and love to Him, which is the true miracle and the prove of His never changing love. God tested Abraham by having him offer up his only son to God as a burnt offering upon Mt. Moriah. Though Abraham did not want this test he proved his belief in God and trusted in his wisdom enough to follow through with God’s request, even up to the very moment of raising the knife high above his head, only then did God send His angeles to stop him. Again, God tested the people in the hot desert for forty years to hone them and to test each one of them. To bring them from a complacent slave like nature to one that was sharpened in every aspect of God, even unto their very last breath would they obey to build a nation in hostile lands. Finally God shows us the test of love through the greatest suffering of Job. Here was a man who had everything, and in Satan’s hands was brought down lower than low and still he refused to turn away from God. We are tested in our faith, in our actions, in our words, through our suffering.
The next form of suffering God uses as a means to mold us into a more perfect person, to edify us and to raise us up higher than we where before, consider;
5 “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” ~ Hebrews 12:5-8
God chastens each one of us in order to bring us through each hardship, to prove his love on a personal level. God calls out to us and encourages the goodness to always shine through much like we see in Jesus upon accepting His divine mission here on earth.God Speaks about chastening his own son, and without this specialized attention we are like the lump of clay that has been cast aside. Jesus talked about praising God in the mists of your troubles, rejoice in your pain as God is always with you, and if you turn from this then indeed you have proven to God you are not one of his sons or daughters. Again this is not what God want’s for He prefers your heart to turn from wickedness and your spirit should have ever lasting life.
The third form of suffering we, (the human population), have brought upon ourselves by rebellion against God, examples of this can be found in the following scriptures;
22 “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” ~ Genesis 3:22-24
8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” 9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them. ~ Numbers 20:8-13
14 “All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased. 15 Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.” ~ Jeremiah 30:14-16
God punishes but takes no pleasure in it. In Genesis Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden of Eden because of their collective sin against God. This was brought upon them by their actions. We see this repeated throughout the bible as this theme is again brought forth with Moses and Aaron who are told by God to gather the people and strike the rock to glorify God’s love for them by giving them water to drink. But Moses does not mention God before striking the rock, and in essence stole from God the glory due Him. In the last example found in Jeremiah God specifically states His wrath and punishment is due because of the sins and increase of the inequity of the people. Our suffering is forever linked to our sins, and the increase of our sins are linked to our increased suffering. Again God takes no pleasure form this but He does and will bring you closer to His perfect love through all your trials and tribulations you may suffer throughout your life.
Finally the fourth kind of suffering is brought about specifically to show Gods might and glory which can be found in the following examples;
5 “‘Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?’ 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?’11 She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’ 12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'” ~ John 8:5-12
9 “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, ‘Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ 6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7 And said unto him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” ~ John 9:1-7
“4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” ~ John 11:4
In these final three examples we see Jesus using sin, blindness, and death as a way to communicate His love, Gods power and might, all which glorifies God in the Highest. Jesus over and over gives new life in each action he takes, this proves beyond all reason of how much God truly loves us, to what lengths God goes to show His love, thus proving He has not changed, His mission has not changed, but rather God has always been the God of love, mercy, forgiveness, and a God of many chances.
If you have been moved by this message then I urge you to also find it in your heart to help support Listening Faithfully by donating today. May God bless you and keep you all the days of your life. May he protect you and fill your heart with peace and wisdom to do his will every single day until the end. Amen