The Shoot of Jesse (Isaiah 11)


Anna and the King of Siam is a favourite book of mine. In its pages Margaret Landon recounts Anna Leonowen’s life in the Siamese court. There is one especially poignant scene which I come to again and again. The English school teacher is visiting one of the King’s wives. At the time Lady Son Klin is in disfavour. During Anna’s visit she notices some exquisite art work on Son Klin’s walls.

I see you don’t understand the meaning of it,” Son Klin {tells Mrs. Anna}. “That big green there. . . is like unto me when I was young and ignorant, rejoicing in earthly distinctions and affections. Then you see I am brought as a gift to the King, and only think how very grand I am and how rich I shall become. And there you see that I am drooping and my leaves are withering and beginning to fall. Here I am shattered and uprooted by a sense of sorrow and humiliation. And there I am drifting along an impetuous river to destruction, but by and by a little flower stops my downward course. See how pretty it is! That little flower is my child. He springs out of the very waters that threatened my ending. And now he grows into a garden of flowers all over the trunk of the tree, to hide away from me that which would make me sad and sorrowful again. And now I am always glad. Do you see?”

Son Klin’s son brings hope into her world. Prior to Son Krita’s birth things looked bleak. Lady Son Klin was in a downward spiral of despair. All of that changes with her child’s entrance into her life. Gradually the gloom and darkness lift. Son Krita is a precious gift to her and for her. Her son brings joy, love, and happiness into her life. Son Klin can endure the King’s displeasure because she has her son.

Lady Son Klin shows a startingly profound sense of insight. As she reveals her story to Anna Leonowens Son Klin is sharing our story. On the walls of her shrine Son Klin accurately describes the human plight. You and I, too, are “drifting along an in impetuous river to destruction.” Such is the state of our existence.

In our sinfulness we have rebelled against God. We try to go it alone, asserting our independence and separating our selves from our Creator. You and I fail to abide in the Author and Giver of all life. This amounts to cutting down the tree of our lives at the roots. Eternal death and permanent separation from God is the result. Thus we wither and fall like leaves on a tree in Autumn.

The prophet Isaiah proclaims good news to us: our situation is not as bleak or as hopeless as it appears. There is sure and certain hope. The seemingly dead stump is about to break forth into new life. A shoot springs up from Jesse’s tree. A child is coming into the world. This is wonderful news indeed!

This child’s birth ushers in a golden age of peace and harmony. All creation feels the impact of this child. He halts the “downward course” of sin and renews the whole earth. Predator and prey live together. Enemies become friends. All humanity can once again be in close relationship with God. Ah, paradise! A glorious return to Eden, to the way God originally made creation.

The Advent Wreath captures Isaiah’s hopeful vision. Its green colour speaks of the new life which shoots forth from Jesse’s stem. The green is the green of the evergreen tree which never dies. Its shape is the shape of eternity, a perfect circle which has neither beginning nor end. In the center of the wreath stands a white candle, the Christ Candle, which testifies to our belief in Jesus as the one of whom Isaiah speaks.

Any baby’s birth calls for joy and happiness. Pregnancy is a wonderful time of joyous anticipation and excitement. Expecting a baby also calls for a lot of preparation. How much more can this be said of the One whom we await this Advent?

Our Advent journey is coming to a close soon. Christmas is almost here. However, it is not to late to begin preparations. What might you and I do to make our hearts ready to welcome Christ’s birth? And, not just His first coming, but for when Him will appear again in great glory and triumph.

Our Advent preparations enable us to be ready for Jesus’ birth. And as we get ready to welcome Christ we shall also find ourselves getting in touch with the true reason for our joyous celebrations this Christmas: all hope is ours through the gracious love of God who sends His Son into the world. Because of Jesus you and I have no reason to be “sad or sorrowful again”