As we continue in the Christmas Spirit today we offer you a recap of our advent messages.
Many of you were snowed in the second week of advent and missed hearing about “The Nezer” of hope God is extending to all of us. We pray during this Christmas week that each of your experience the closeness of Christ, who is nothing other than God’s own hand extending to you. We welcome you and your families to worship with us this Sunday as we share a very special Christmas service of carols and scriptures.
The prophet promised: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him…In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people." Isaiah 11:1
Isaiah 11 introduces to God's people the hope of new life ushered in by the coming of a Righteous leader. This hope was desperately needed. For the people of Israel had experienced nearly 600 years of deterioration and division. God's promise of a peaceful kingdom living in the land of milk and honey, the promise made to Jesse and his son David, seemed a distant memory. The kings following David built up powerful armies and grand palaces. Like a towering tree their empire seemed unstoppable. However, their sin and selfishness caused division in the empire. God's people were fractured into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Like a tree splintered by a storm, the people were weakened by this divide and a rotten Spirit began to plague the leaders and the people. The Assyrian armies brought Israel down like a tree splintered under the weight of heavy snow. In the Southern kingdom of Judah, God's people experienced a similar fate. The Babylonian Empire overtook them and sent the people to live as exiles. By 500BC the family tree of Jesse and David seemed little more than a stump.
Some times we, like the Israelite's, feel like a stump. Is there anything which causes you to feel beat down or cut off today?
-A relationship that is weakened by stress of division?
-A disappointment that causes you to question if God is listening?
-A division in your family that weakens your sense of security?
-A financial stress or job loss that weighs you down?
-A sin that causes you to fear that you are cut off from God?
Many things can reduce our lives to "stump status", many things can cause us to wonder what's left after the storm blows through.
Friends! There is good news for "WHATS LEFT OF US!"
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse...In that day the LORD will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people." Isaiah 11
The shoot was called A NEZER! This is a proper name for the One who brings hope, where hope seems lost. The NEZER is not just a sign, like a burning bush or a rainbow. The NEZER is personal. The NEZER is God's anointed one who will redeem what left of God's people.
The hope for the NEZER brewed and increased in God's people for 600 years after Isaiah spoke his promise. Jeremiah picked up the chorus promising Nezer 's arrival, Zechariah echoed the carol and promised that the NEZER was coming to restore God's people.
Eventually, an angel came to a small town called NAZARETH. The people in this town were so eager for the NEZER to come that they named their town "the people who wait for a NEZER". Into this place the angle brought Good News to a virgin girl and all the human race. God was extending God's hand, a shoot was breaking free from the cold hard soil of this weary world, a Savior was coming who would be the Messiah, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
We celebrate this Christmas that the NEZER has come. The promise made in Isaiah 11:11 "The Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim what's left of God's people” was fulfilled in ways beyond explanation.
The hand reached out was not the hand of just a prophet, or a human king; the hand extended was the hand of God's own Son.
The hand would be kissed by a mother and father.
The hand would touch the leaper and make him clean.
The hand would touch mangled legs so that they could walk again.
The hand would wipe away tears when Lazareth died.
The hand would bear the nails of a cross. The hands would "be pierced for our transgressions”, by the wounds of these hands we would be set free.
The hand would be revealed, with the scars of death and the heat of life, to prove the reality of the resurrection.
The hand would reclaim what was left of Mary, Peter, Paul & Lidia. The hand, the Nezur, is extended today to us. The Hand is eager to reclaim and gather to the heart of God what's left of us.
However you come to this reading today know that God is extending himself to you. Whatever is left of you, after the storms you have weathered, God is eager to reclaim. Except God's outstretched hand, welcome the Nezer, the shoot, to bring new hope for new life to you. Gather your loved ones this Christmas and welcome Christ to be a shoot of Hope for you.
This Christmas week focus your prayers:
On those who are skeptical or resistant to the hand of God.
On those who are sick and need God’s healing touch.
On those at the end of life, that they may soon be greeted by choirs of angels singing peace.
On those in the midst of struggling relationships or realities.
As you pastors we are blessed to serve you all year long. We are honored to journey with you through the blessings and the heartache of this life. We are blessed by your care and prayers and reassured of our call as we see you serve God’s people. We wish you God’s deepest love and truest peace this Christmas and each day of the New Year.
Pastor Jenny & Pastor Scott