2021 Advent Devotions

Isaiah 11:1-9 | December 7, 2021

Wondrous Images
by Nancy Brown

A wondrous vision of images exists in Isaiah 11:1-9. Picture first a shoot in a stump from which has sprouted a branch from roots representing the genealogy from Jesse, King David’s father, to a descendant blessed by the spirit of God. This being will manifest wisdom and have compassion for the poor and meek. He will use powerful words to impact the wicked and wear righteousness as his belt and faithfulness around his loins. Isaiah offers expectation of a worthy leader to what is left of this stump of Judah after the Assyrian assault that spared only Jerusalem. We, however, see a description of Jesus in Isaiah’s words.

Images of a “new” world order with righteous reign follow in verses 6-9: the wolf living with the lamb; the leopard next to the kid; the calf and lion together with children and other creatures. The striking line of this idealized scene is “A little child shall lead them” which metaphorically may reflect the hope given at that glorious moment in Bethlehem.

These verses in Isaiah 11 remind me of a scene in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.

Atticus Finch, a principled father and lawyer, sits unarmed in front of a jail at night risking his life to protect the innocent but imprisoned Tom Robinson. Atticus is “the best shot in town” but seeks to use his wisdom, compassion, and powerful words to fight the wickedness he suspects is near. A wild pack of prejudiced men do arrive expecting to take the law into their own “claws,” but suddenly his worried son, daughter Scout, and their friend appear. They are resolute and refuse to go home with one man “growling” that he can make them leave. This is clearly not the benign scene depicted in Isaiah 11:6-9, but something miraculously does occur.

Eight-year-old Scout suddenly recognizes one of the men and calls out, “Hey, Mr. Cunningham.” Undaunted, she begins chattering on and on and mentions his son whom she calls “a nice boy.” Cunningham eventually squats down and speaks kindly to her before “waving a big paw” and telling the mob “to clear out.”  “A little child” has temporarily quelled but not fully domesticated this crowd as the novel’s poignant yet remarkable ending reveals.

Isaiah’s images of a stump sprouting a descendant with the spirit of God and a world where wild and gentle animals coexist with children connected to a scene in To Kill A Mockingbird may not be traditional ones related to Christmas, but the words of Isaiah and Harper Lee, many centuries apart, give us hope. If the life of the Christ child as He grew “in wisdom and in stature” were exemplified by more of humanity, “on Earth peace, goodwill to men” could better emerge. Idealism and our faith offer standards we must never abandon in this quest for a righteous world.

Prayer: Lord, keep our hearts open to ways that help ensure safety, hope, justice, and love for those in need. Amen