A copy of the book, “The Giving Tree.”
Even when things seem hopeless, God gives us hope. When nothing is left of the tree but the stump, there is still life there… just waiting for the right season to spring up again. Shel Silverstein’s book, The Giving Tree, ends with an old man sitting on a stump and the “tree” is happy again… but the ending of the book is pretty sad, really! The story of Isaiah, in today’s passage, is MUCH more hopeful.
“How are you this morning, children? My object lesson today is a book, and I am guessing it’s one that many of you have seen or had read to you before… anyone want to guess?
[take time for children’s guesses… I’d be amazed if someone got it!]
No… though those are all good guesses and well known stories. The book I have [reveal book at this time] is called, The Giving Tree! Do you know this book? Oh, it’s really good. We don’t have time to read it all now, maybe later we could, but for now I want to point out how the Tree in the book and the boy are friends. The book moves through the story with the boy getting older and returning each time to take something more from the tree. At the very end, what is left of the tree?
[turn page to where the old man sits on what is left of the tree… now just a stump]
Right! Just a poor old stump. But still, the story tells us, the tree is happy because the “boy,” now really an old man, can sit on her and she feels connected to the boy once again. And that’s it. That’s the story… kind of happy, and kind of sad. But, of the stories I know that talk about stumps, and I am not sure there are too many, The Giving Tree is only the second best story. I know a better one. It’s in the Bible! It’s a great story… really!
Hmmm… you guys don’t look convinced. Maybe I better explain…
Do you know about Advent? Advent means “the arrival of an important person or event.” It’s the start of the church year, and throughout the season of Advent we recognize the coming of Jesus as a baby. We celebrate that particular miracle on what day that is coming up? Do you know?
[let kids respond]
That’s right! Christmas! So, Advent is the time leading up to Christmas… It’s a time when we look back on the Bible passages that foretold Jesus’ coming so we can learn more about the wonderful gift Jesus was to the world! In the passage from Isaiah that we read this morning, for instance, the prophet talks about the promise of a ‘branch’ that was going to come and save everyone. Do you know what God was actually talking about? Or, maybe I should say… Do you know WHO God was talking about? [kids guess] That’s right… Jesus!
Jesus was the branch Isaiah wrote about. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? It gets a little less weird if you understand why God promised that branch in the first place.
Back then, the people of Israel were pretty discouraged. They had messed up big time, and they were suffering the consequences of some pretty bad choices. They had turned their backs on God and decided to do things their own way. It didn’t work out very well for them. So, like a big beautiful tree getting cut down, all of the ‘amazingness’ of being God’s people was taken away. They had to leave the places they were living and go live somewhere else. They were sad. They had gone from feeling like a big, important and beautiful tree to a lowly little stump. And, as they felt lowly like that stump, without any hope, that’s when God told them that out of that stump they had become a new tree would sprout! At first it would be so small, it would just be like a little branch coming out of the side of the stump!
Wow… incredible! When they felt their worst and felt like maybe God would just throw up his hands and be done with them, God gave them a promise. God told them that they would have a future leader, a great great great (you keep going on and on for a little while…) grandson of King David, who would help make them the type of people who are ‘right with God,’ close to him, and part of God’s family! That’s a wonderful promise to look forward to.
So, here we are in Advent, just starting out. Let’s remember how God kept his promise to send the branch—the seedling from the stump of Jesse (that was King David’s dad)—and that branch is Jesus, and most importantly… God still keeps all his promises today. In our own small way, we can help extend the hope that God gives us by supporting the work Intermountain does with kids and families.
We handed out change cans last week and have some more for you if you missed that (pass out cans to any that weren’t in church last week), and we’re hoping you fill them up between now and Christmas. You’ll hear a little more about Intermountain as we continue to move through the Advent season. But, for now…
God, thank you for your presence in each of our lives. Help us remember the promises that have come true and those that will come true in the future. Give us patience to wait for all the good things you promise to those that love you and place their trust in you. Help us hold out for the best, YOUR best God—for us, and for our church and our community. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Key Text: Isaiah 11:1-10 (NIrV)
Jesse’s family is like a tree that has been cut down.
A new little tree will grow from its stump.
From its roots a Branch will grow and produce fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on that Branch.
The Spirit will help him to be wise and understanding.
The Spirit will help him make wise plans and carry them out.
The Spirit will help him know the LORD and have respect for him.
3 The Branch will take delight
in respecting the LORD.
He will not judge things only by the way they look.
He won’t make decisions based simply on what people say.
4 He will always do what is right
when he judges those who are in need.
He’ll be completely fair
when he makes decisions about poor people.
When he commands that people be punished,
it will happen.
When he orders that evil people be put to death,
it will take place.
5 He will put on godliness as if it were his belt.
He’ll wear faithfulness around his waist.
6 Wolves will live with lambs.
Leopards will lie down with goats.
Calves and lions will eat together.
And little children will lead them around.
7 Cows will eat with bears.
Their little ones will lie down together.
And lions will eat straw like oxen.
8 A baby will play near a hole where cobras live.
A young child will put its hand into a nest
where poisonous snakes live.
9 None of those animals will harm or destroy anything or anyone
on my holy mountain of Zion.
The oceans are full of water.
In the same way, the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the LORD.
10 At that time, here is what the man who is called the Root of Jesse will do. He will be like a banner that brings nations together. They will come to him. And the place where he rules will be glorious.