Isaiah watches as the world around him crumbles. “How long, O Lord?” he cries out.
Until it all is laid waste, is the short answer. The poetry is more descriptive. Until the cities, houses, and land are uninhabited. Until exile and emptiness mark the landscape. Until a mere tenth remain the destruction will continue. It will leave only a burnt out stump of a city.
But while the stump smolders the prophet stokes hope. He says that buried in that blistering trunk is a holy seed. All is not, in fact, lost.
We watch catastrophe assault the city. The crumbling continues for many chapters to come.
And yet the seed cracks open and a shoot sprouts out of the stock of Jesse. The stump represents the dead tree that once was the proud tree of David and his descendants. The dynasty was killed off – left for dead. What was left had no life in it. That is the truth of cityscapes built on greed, corruption and all manner of injustices. They don’t last.
Against all the odds a hint of green breaks through the blackened rings of the dead trunk. A branch will emerge from deep roots – the taproot of Torah, of neighborliness, of justice I imagine. The Spirit fans the cold embers into a flame, as only the Spirit can.
There will come a new king. This ruler will prioritize the poor. This leader will establish equity, a goodness for all people but especially the meek who remained on the land because they had no where else to go. This king will speak a searing truth. This king wears sashes of righteousness and justice; these are the credentials that matter in the city on the verge of restoration.
The landscape turns black. My own hope withers among burning trees. I see more ash than Advent. Even as I watch less news and read more of Isaiah, my shoulders slump. But every so often the prophet breathes the hot breath of hope into my face. Are things dire? Yes. Are things finally done? Not so fast, the Spirit says.
Know that while the stump smolders, there is a holy seed hidden beneath where even the fire of destruction cannot reach. A seed with the dna of justice, the genes of neighborliness preserved for a future day.
There will be another king, another leader who will care for those struggling on minimum wage and dependant on welfare. A leader will come and safeguard the health of the people and the earth. Someone will advocate for refugees and protect immigrants and remind us to be good neighbors once again.
Advent green – a distant hope.