Bible Text: Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13 | Preacher: Rev. Dennis Howard | “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”
We are those Gentiles talked about here in this ancient promise of God, spoken into being by the prophet Isaiah.
We are those who stand today, standing in the hope of the promised coming of the One who will bless the nations with truth and justice.
We are those whose hope is in the Shoot that sprang up from the Root of Jesse. The Shoot whose birth we celebrate on Christmas day, the culmination of the season of Advent.
We are those whose hope is Jesus Christ, Messiah, Son of God, Lord of all Nations, born of a virgin teenager thousands of years ago in a barn in ancient Palestine.
That is who we are.
With all our modern trappings, with all our sophistication, with all our pride, with all our ego; we are a people who believe in a simple family story, told to us by our Father God through the words of prophets of old.
We are those who live in hope because we believe in a family story told to us over and over again throughout the centuries through the beauty and power of the prose and poetry of God’s word.
We are those who live in hope because we believe a family story, the story of the family of God, told to us finally and completely through the words of Emmanuel, God with us.
Family stories are important.
Family stories are an important part of this time of year.
As families gather around tables set with rich foods in celebration of the season, it is inevitable that the older ones in our midst will begin to tell their family stories of Christmas’ past.
Although some may wince as Aunty Marge trots out for the umpteenth time the story about that Christmas back in 1987 when she had to cook the turkey on the camp stove because the power went out just as she was putting the bird in the oven.
While we are wincing, it is important, it matters that we hear her story again – listening – and as we listen watching for what these remembered events tell us about who Aunty Marge is and who we are as a family.
It is important that we bear with patience the stories about the remembered past of our family unit.
It is important that we patiently hear again stories that tell us who we are.
On the surface of things, a tale about cooking a turkey on the camp stove is not a story that is deeply profound; it is not a story that carries obvious deeper meaning.
But as we listen together to these shared stories of our past, in the listening, in the bearing with one another in patience and in love, we are bound together as family.
And what can be more profound than being bound together in love through our shared past?
And this bonding will only happen when we have ears to hear and eyes to see what is really going on in the telling of the stories of our past.
And we can only perceive the true meaning of the stories of our shared pasts if we take the time and give one another the space to share our stories.
If in the sharing of our stories we are intentional about appreciating one another, stories that once bored will bring life, to the speaker and to the listener.
Aunty Marge may be telling you a boring old story but what she is really doing is telling you how important it is to her to be a member of your family, sitting together with you all around a shared table of celebration.
So, family stories matter.
Stories of our past inform our future hopes.
Isaiah tells a family story.
Isaiah tells us our Father’s story, that old, old story, about our Father’s plan for setting straight all the things that we have managed to break in his creation.
When we listen again each year to the Advent story, when we allow ourselves to take the time to bring fresh into our memories once again the stories of our Father’s plan for setting straight the brokenness of the nations, our hope in the future is restored.
When we honour our Father, by taking the time and making the space in our lives to listen once again to the story of his plan for the redemption of the nations, our hope in tomorrow is restored because this family story, more than any family story, reminds us who we are, whose we are.
During this Advent Season as we gather with family and friends, as the stories of our past are trotted out, listen this year with a new ear.
Listen to the old tales with an ear tuned to hear what Aunty is really saying as she regales you once again with her turkey story.
During this Advent Season, as we gather with family and friends, revisiting our shared pasts with memories of Christmas’ gone by, watch what is really going on. Watch with eyes peeled to see what is really happening in your midst.
Listen and watch, listen to really hear and watch to really see, the true meaning that is behind the words being spoken.
Watch for the needs expressed in the telling of old stories.
Watch for the love that is shared through the telling of those often-repeated stories of your family.
Watch and listen, and this year instead of being impatient or bored, be bound together in love by what you see and hear.
And as Paul said to us in Romans 15:5-6, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together with one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May this be the shared hope of your family.
May this be the shared reality of your family and friends.
May harmony with God and Man be your family story, during this season of Advent and beyond.