First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Second Sunday of Advent, December 5, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Yahweh Shalom: The Lord Is Peace!”
Isaiah 11:1-11; Romans 15:33
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” With this hope-filled statement, the Prophet Isaiah introduced to the nation of Israel and to us the Peaceful Kingdom of Christ. Peace will be a mark of the reign of the Messiah, Isaiah would tell us today.
There is restlessness in the world today – caused by many different problems. Yet, as Christ’s followers, we are grateful today to know that peace is a mark of Christ’s Kingdom. On this Second Sunday of Advent, we get to reflect on God’s shalom, God’s peace. In chapter 11, the Prophet Isaiah envisioned this peaceful kingdom where all God’s creation lives in harmony. Predators will no longer be hunting, but communing side by side with their former prey. A child, the most vulnerable and powerless member of society, will be leading God’s creatures. Carnivores will be grazing on grass; snakes will not bite the unsuspecting hand of a child at play. Just listening to Isaiah’s words bring a sense of peace and comfort.
As we reflect on this Peaceful Kingdom, this Kingdom of Shalom, please allow me to briefly make a couple observations on this Second Sunday of Advent:
First: The Source of our Peace
We assume we would have peace if we had: a decent salary a year per person; a nice home for every human being. We assume we would have peace if there were no sickness or disease; if we have plenty of food and water for everyone! These things are not unimportant! In fact, God expects us to try and make many of these things a reality, but the truth is that these things won’t bring peace.
How do we attain peace? Where do we find it? The Prophet Isaiah points to the source of our ultimate peace. He points to a leader whose rule will bring this peaceful kingdom to fruition—the one on whom “The spirit of the Lord shall rest … the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.” This Messiah’s rule will bring true peace.
Although we know the sinful world refused the reign and the kingship of Christ, we, His followers in the world, call Him Lord and Savior. Therefore, no matter what happens, we can always experience His shalom, His peace. We can experience that deep sense of restoration, wholeness, and healing in our individual lives, our community and our world. This peace comes from beyond our human capability. “For He Himself is our peace,” says the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:14. Christ is the foundation of our peace and we will be frustrated constantly when we look for it elsewhere. Our shalom is found in God not in goods.
Second: The Humble Beginning of God’s Peaceful Kingdom
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” This is how God’s peaceful kingdom gets its start. The transformation of creation, the reversal of violence and fear and destruction comes from a stump. Yes, a stump.
Now, it doesn’t take an expert to know that stumps are what’s left when trees are cut down. And while it is possible for new growth to occur from a stump, it is the exception and not the rule. More often than not, stumps stand as remnants of the life and growth that was once present but is no longer, the life and growth that was decisively cut off.
Satan thought that he has stolen the peace from humanity forever, but here comes “A shoot out from the stump of Jesse.” Here comes Jesus of Nazareth, full God and full human, and He defeats Satan on Calvary. Satan thought that he holds the destiny of humanity in his hands, but here comes Jesus and reverse this. Jesus is the shoot that came out of the stump of Jesse. He is the one who will bring about shalom for all creation. The peaceful Kingdom gets its start in our lives when this shoot is planted and grows in our hearts.
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” As we encounter Isaiah’s vision this morning, we are invited to rethink our relationship with that stump. We are also invited to think about the other stumps in our lives. Where are the stumps in your life? Where are the places where you feel cut off, even dead? Where are the places in your life in need of God’s shalom? Where are the broken places in need of strength? Where are the hurting places in need of balm? Where are the rips and tears in need of mending? Where are the stumps in our community? Where are the stumps in our world?
The good news of the gospel is that God is at work even here, even in the stumps, bringing new life to the places where we only see death, where we only see what is cut off, where we only see what once was and is no longer. God is at work even here, bringing shalom one shoot at a time. So as we journey together this Advent, may we see these shoots of new life in our midst. May we carry the burden of peace realized, and all of the experiences in between. May we do so with our lives ready to welcome in God’s shalom, and with our hands and feet ready to join in bringing it here just a little bit sooner. May “The God of peace be with you all. Amen” Romans 15:33.
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