November 24, 2009

Nov. 24: Advent Branch

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By Jim Brenneman, president
SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV) Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:
According to an ancient Jewish midrash, someone asked Rabbi Joshua, “Why did God speak to Moses from a bush?” Rabbi Joshua replied, “God spoke from a bush to teach that there is no place where the Divine is not present, not even in a lowly bush.”

God speaks from trees? Jeremiah uses the lesson of a tree branch to preach an early Advent sermon. He tells of a future time when God’s promise of salvation and safety to God’s people will come to pass. A “righteous Branch” will come from the house of David, he says, “to execute justice and righteousness in the land.” The New Testament church saw this promised Branch to be none other than Jesus Christ.

It was Jesus who later likened the kingdom of God to a tree in whose branches birds flee for safety. And another time Jesus invites his disciples to look at the fig tree and other trees to see in the changing of the seasons the signs of death and resurrection happening right before their eyes.

A Hasidic story tells of a rabbi’s son who used to wander in the woods. The rabbi asked his son, “I wonder why each day you walk in the woods?” The boy replied, “I go there to find God.” “That’s very good, son. But, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?” “Yes,” the boy answered, “but I’m not.”

And so it is with us. We need tangible signs of God’s presence. When we enter the emotional, spiritual and physical winters of our lives, no matter the reason, let us eagerly anticipate that day when a new branch will burst forth from the leafless icicled branch we have become? In this Advent season, may all trees be for us Christ-mas trees, signs of hope, worthy of our decorating and celebrating – Christ, the Righteous Branch, has come into our lives, Christ will come again.
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SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV)

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

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Comments (13)

  1. The analogy of God being in the woods vs everywhere is both a good one and a bad one. Had not the rabbi (i.e. the jews) NOT felt that God (i.el. Jesus) was everywhere, they might have recognized the Messiah. We must look for God BUT unless he is also looking for us we shall not find him. This also of course is the message of Advent. He IS coming and he IS looking for us.

    Ron Zout November 24, 2009 |
  2. thank you for the connection of the root of Jesse, Moses and God everywhere. I especially liked the God is the same but I am not thought.

    Pastor Karen November 24, 2009 |
  3. The Scriptures tell us that the trees clap their hands in praise to God. It only follows that some are drawn to see the woods as a sanctuary to feel God’s presence.

    March November 24, 2009 |
  4. The idea of “going away” to meet God in the woods, is a great idea. I understand that God is the same everywhere, but we are not. Nicely put.

    Jep Hostetler November 24, 2009 |
  5. Blessings to all as you journey. i truly miss being “around” the campus but affrim the work and mission of all there, students, staff and faculty. As we journey into yet another Christmas season may the meaning of the life and times of Jesus the Christ be lived to the full.

    Randy Springer November 24, 2009 |
  6. Your Advent email was like the return of an old friend. Thank you for offering them. As one who is also “not the same person”when I’m in nature, I appreciated the opening midrash story. Let me add a recent anecdote. I was leading a group of 10 -12 year olds in a session on painting prayer and labyrinth walking on October 30th. A 12 year old boy began painting bold splashes of orange and black. As he continued, he felt led to add the colours of fire, then to create branches out of his black colour splashes. An awareness grew in him that he was painting nothing less than the burning bush, and that he was standing on holy ground. It was a gift of grace and revelation that neither he, or I had anticipated.

    Elsie Rempel November 24, 2009 |
  7. God speaking to us through trees and bushes… that is a great thought as we prepare for Christmas! When we put up our Christmas tree this year, I will have some new insights to ponder. When it’s lights are burning brightly in the darkness, what will God be saying to me this advent season?

    Barry Rands November 24, 2009 |
  8. This reminds me of the apocryphal passage from the Gospel of Thomas: “Cleave the wood: I am there; lift the stone and thou shalt find me there.”
    For me, the stories and Biblical passages mentioned show how God is ever-present in the most common of places. But, implied in them all, there is the an emphasis of doing the work to find God: Fly to the tree. Cleave the wood. Lift the rock. Listen to a bush. These are not necessarily easy tasks. Yet, in doing them, we become different people, just like the boy in the Hasidic story: People working on their relationship with God.
    Again this Advent, we can find God in our in-box, if we take the time to open the messages and read them. Thank you, GC, for doing this.

    Britt Kaufmann November 24, 2009 |
  9. Sunday we had an Advent parish Potluck and activities of creating Jesse Tree symbols and so this reflection is very timely for me and I will share it with those present at the potluck and friends. I appreciate the Jewish stories – reminders for me to Pause and Listen amidst this season of anticipation and waitiing. Come Lord Jesus, Come. Thank you. Peace

    Val November 24, 2009 |
  10. Thank you for your sensitive telling of stories and wisdom from the Jewish tradition and Hebrew Scriptures, honoring both the Jewish tradition and Christian tradition without suggesting that one is superior to the other. Also, thank you for letting the Hebrew Scripture prophecy stand in a way that honors those who believe Jesus was the Christ and those who may read that scripture differently.

    Kathy November 24, 2009 |
  11. Because I spend lots of time in the woods, identifying as many plants as I can and learning about their interrelationships, this meditation resonated with me. Like the rabbi’s son, often I find God in the woods.

    John J. Smith November 24, 2009 |
  12. I look forward to the Advent and Lenten devotions with the changing of the seasons. When the first Advent one popped up, last week, I actually felt excited that it was the time again. Thanks to all of you who submit devotions from Sharron in Mahomet, IL.

    Sharron Mies November 24, 2009 |
  13. Thank you so much for this devotion. It was just what I needed and incredibly timely for me in many ways, not just because of Advent.
    peace & grace…

    Monique November 26, 2009 |