A tender shoot in dry ground

  • By DANIEL WIESE
  • Sunday, December 20, 2015 1:01am
  • Neighbors

For many Christians, the passage in the Old Testament book, Isaiah, chapter 53, carries a powerful message from the prophet Isaiah, revealing the future suffering of Jesus. It is often read commemorating Jesus suffering and dying on the cross for our sins. But the chapter begins reminding us of the wonder of this Advent season.

The Old Testament prophet, in Isaiah, says in verses 1-2, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

The phrase, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground,” is what caught my attention. We lived in Eastern Oregon for a few years, in a region that was very dry. When the ground became very dry, it became very hard. If it was dry enough, it would crack, like dry skin. When I consider the fact that a tender shoot, a frail root, would grow out of dry ground, I remember seeing those tender blades of grass, pushing their way up through the dry, hard-packed ground in my yard, and wondered at the amazement of what that tender shoot/root had accomplished.

My wife and I drove through the Mount St. Helens volcano site, which erupted in May 1980, later that summer and again in 1982. During our first visit, the area was completely and totally gray, covered in ash. No color. No life. Two years later, we drove through again and tiny blades of green grass were growing up out of the vast grayness of ash across the area. It was amazing to see such a miracle of life amidst the bleak, gray world.

Jesus was born in a very spiritually dry time. The world was not ideal, in our minds, for the coming of the Son of God into the world. John’s Gospel says in 1:10-11, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” It was a very bleak and gray world, with very dry ground, spiritually speaking.

But, in Jesus, new life was springing up, bringing new life and new hope to the world. We may see our world today with many spiritually dry areas, many bleak things going on in the world, things that rob us of hope for a better tomorrow. But that is the very time Jesus comes. It is the very time He pushes up through the hard, dry, cracked world in which we live and brings life and hope and salvation. The baby Jesus born in Bethlehem, we believe, is that tender shoot; that root coming up in dry ground. Glory be to God!

• Daniel Wiese is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.

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