By Beth Bontrager, Mennonite Historical Library administrative assistant
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10 (NRSV)
The Mennonite Hymnal Worship Book #299, “New Earth, Heavens New,” is one of my favorite hymns. I love the accompaniment, embellishing or playing with the rhythm, adding some syncopation. It’s a tune of movement, change and growth.
But I also love the words. The author and composer, Harris J. Loewen, was an Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) student, curious to find all the ways that the word “new” was used in the Bible. He wrapped them together with the phrase “Behold, I make all things new.”
The shoot from the stump of Jesse is something new. Many, during the time of Isaiah, considered Israel to be a dying, scattered people, squabbling amongst themselves, abandoned by the God they had abandoned. They looked to the prophets for words of new hope, for words of the future. And Isaiah came through: a peaceable kingdom with justice and safety, where knowledge of the Lord pervades, and the entire world delights in the Lord. Righteousness and faithfulness abound.
Advent is a time to be curious about the new things that are coming. The end of the calendar year approaches, bringing plans for the new year. What’s in the box wrapped in purple paper and a bow?
What surprises are around the corner? What new books are coming out? With this curiosity comes the opportunity to learn. Waiting isn’t a stagnant, unfruitful time: Waiting gives us the chance to peer through the known to discover a new perspective, a new thought, a new friend, a new hope.
My sister thought my mother was ignorant for many years. Dear Mom always responded to our questions “Why?” and “How?” and “What?” with, “I don’t know; what do you think?” Forever the teacher, she instilled in us insatiable curiosity to wonder, learn and discover new things.
Thus, wait actively, be curious, and find newness in the world as we move toward the Birth of Christ, the New Life.
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10 (NRSV)
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His 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; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adders den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.