Advent Moment: Unexpected Fullness

Rev. Kris Bentley, Lilly Project Director at Lexington Theological Seminary.

Of the countless good words in Scripture, few are as hopeful as those that promise, and expect, new life to come forth from dire circumstances. In Jeremiah 33:14-16, this promise takes on the poetic image of the “righteous branch springing up” from within a damaged and disillusioned political situation for the house of Israel and the house of Judah – a house divided. The branch seems to point to a promised redemptive leader, one who will shepherd the people who are disillusioned and whose bodies and hopes are exhausted.

Many of us in these days, too, know that kind of disillusionment and exhaustion. Our lives as individual human beings, as members of the human community and as creatures who share the earth’s interdependent ecosystem are complex. Within such complexity, we can be tempted to think nothing good can be accomplished in the future and to give up any real hope for life-giving change.

When living with this kind of experience, the words “righteous branch” sound a particularly hopeful and life-giving note. This branch may be tiny, barely visible to the naked eye. Its growth may emerge out of bark that looks for all the world as if it is dead. Such growth may also spring up through uncultivated soil … or even through a crack in a well-paved road. Its shoot may wind its way through the rubble of structures that once stood tall and strong. The new branch with unfolding green leaves and slowly emerging stems speaks volumes about the mysterious and miraculous God-given life within all of life. A hope with that kind of mysterious growth, guided and empowered by the God who loves us and the world we live in, is the kind of hope that is Christmas.

Prayer: O Holy One, help us embrace Your promise of new life in all its unexpected fullness. May we look for the signs of it emerging in all of Creation. May our celebrations in these days replenish our spirits with the hope and praise that the days are surely coming, and You are surely on your way. Amen.