FIRST TUESDAY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 11:1-10
On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.
It is that time of year, the time that many wait for with eagerness. Where bright lights fill the street and compensate for the fast approaching night. Trees shine bright inside windows, and holiday tunes fill every store. It is Christmas time. Not only does the physical atmosphere change, but the social one does as well. During this time, you see people being more generous and more forgiving; the Spirit of the Lord is more evident in our daily lives.
The reading mentions in the first stanza the Spirits of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord as a budding blossom growing among the people. We all see these attributes flourish among people during this season. A sense of understanding and humbling as we recognized all people are God’s children; a sense of counsel as families and friends come together to celebrate their unbreakable ties; a sense of strength (to make it through Wisconsin’s cold winter and) keep focus with distractions from multiple breaks and marketing traps; and knowledge and fear of the Lord to remind ourselves of what we are celebrating: the birth of Christ. The birth that allowed us to be beautifully imperfect in every way possible.
In the second stanza this idea is built upon with an overwhelming sense of community. Enemies are reconciled and appreciating each other, as seen in “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb” and “the lion shall play by the cobra’s den.” In many biblical passages the message is spoken loud and clear to forgive and reconcile with one’s enemy, but this passage paints a clear picture of all of God’s creation coming together. Seemingly incompatible creatures are meeting, and living together, working to improve the lives of others. This reading is screaming the message of unity. Our preconceived prejudices and arguments need to be thrown out the window. For some this may be removing racial bias, acceptance for people with different sexual orientations or preferences, or letting an estranged family member or friend back into our hearts. The bottom line is that all are given a place the table, and that the meal is shared with love.
Special attention, however, is given to the poor. The reading specifically states that people will not be judged on appearance and “the poor [shall be judged] with justice.” Extreme pressure is placed to give and get the biggest, shiniest, most practical, most fun gift. The passage completely demystifies this statement. While earthly gifts do have value in life, people should realize that the most important gifts are family and God, because they have the only ties that cannot be broken. Instead of spending money on material things, it can be well spent on items of survival for the poor and homeless. It is our responsibility as Christ’s disciples to bring justice to those in need.
While this is the most wonderful time of the year, I experience some dissonance with the notion that people should be especially kind and giving during this season. Our hearts should be open every season, care should be given to those less fortunate constantly, and attachment to earthly possessions should be disregarded daily. While I will encourage you to focus on giving now, I remind you that we should be giving all year round. Because the problems we pay attention to during the holiday season are prevalent all year long. This Christmas I encourage you to open your heart and keep them open forever.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light.”
When are times that you have not been receptive to all people?
How can you put aside your differences to unite yourselves?
How can you give back to the community?
What is a plan to keep an open heart and “Christmas spirit” a part of life when advent is over?
Amira Elsafy, a senior at Dominican High School, lives in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. She has been the class Student Council President, a member of the honor roll for the past four years and loves to volunteer. Outside of the academic world, you will find Amira on the stage, recently winning an award for playing the Witch in “Big Fish”.