This short essay is taken from the book, The Incarnation and the Exultation: An Advent Devotional. This devotional reflects on the scriptures of incarnation and exaltation in order to take you on a journey of thoughtful self-reflection. It is meant to draw you more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s coming into the world to help you walk your own inner path toward the season of Christmas. As you celebrate the coming of Christ into your lives during Advent and spend time reflecting on the readings in this devotional, may the light and love that entered our world lead you to the cross in wonder and thanksgiving. May you find joy and discover strength as you walk this wondrous journey to Bethlehem, always holding within your heart the image of the Hill of Calvary and the hope of the Age to come when Christ will return to call his people home!
Incarnation – There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1)
Exaltation – …and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:17-21)
For the Jewish people, their nation and their faith had become like the dead stump of an olive tree. Their sin had brought suffering, defeat, and captivity. Far from their home, they had all but lost hope. But the Lord had not given up on them. That stump of Jesse – the father of David – represented the journey of God’s people from the beginning. It had strong roots that dug deep into the foundation of God’s promises and his love. There was still life there. From that stump, a shoot would come forth. That shoot was Jesus.
Many years after the prophet, the Lord stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth to read the word of God from Isaiah, chapter 61. Here before the people was the shoot from the stump of Jesse, proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, the favorable time that was now upon them. The tiny baby of Bethlehem had grown up to be the man whose wisdom, power, and submission to the Father’s will would bring salvation through the cruel cross. What a wonderful cause for rejoicing for all who believe!
Wherever we are in our lives, whether in the darkness of despair or the dawning of hope, the message of Christmas is clear: In Jesus, we see God’s plan in its fullness. All that came before was in the Father’s perfect, sovereign hand. From eternity, God knew he would raise up the Messiah from the line of David. The promise God made to the man after his own heart would be forever. Though David died, there would come a new eternal King, One who would bring the Good News and free us from our captivity. That One was Jesus Christ!
This Christmas, let the image of the tender shoot remind you that God keeps his promises, raising salvation from the deep roots of his everlasting love.
Prayer: Father, as I think about the image of the Christmas tree – forever green, filled with light, holding the memories of our lives and the promise of a future hope in heaven with Jesus – may I be reminded of the other tree, the one upon which Jesus hung to free us from our sins and bring us into the Kingdom of God…Amen!
Days are coming, branch increasing,
King from David’s royal line.
Righteous Judgment, never ceasing,
Sacred ever-living sign.