Dec. 19                            Isaiah 11:10-16                                Jillian Embrey

The phrase “the root of Jesse” always reminded me of those beautiful illustrated family trees that you see in genealogy books. Branches that twist and extend and wind through generations, even centuries. We have copies of many of them in file drawers in our house – both Dan and I have family members that are huge genealogy buffs. Dan’s uncle Ed can trace their family back to passengers on the Mayflower. My uncle David has traced my family tree back to Colonial Williamsburg and one of our ancestors who came over from England to serve as the first governor of the Virginia colony. Although growing up, I was always proud of the fact that my family had such deep roots in this country, as an adult, that pride is often tinged with painful realities. Amid those boughs and branches of my family tree sit slave-owners, white supremacists, Confederate generals, and more recently, many like myself who have been the willing beneficiaries of great amounts of white privilege. As with any giant old tree, there is rot, blight, branches felled by terrible storms – the same reality of sin and brokenness that permeates our human family tree. 

But this text offers hope – both for the brokenness of our human family tree, and for those branches that may be sick or damaged on our own family trees. For the original audience of this Isaiah text, their family tree had been split down the middle, divided into two kingdoms, ravaged by war, and displaced in exile. But these words speak of the Messiah that will take what is broken and divided and reassemble, reunite and restore us all into the family of God. 

No matter what has happened in the past, whether it was hundreds of years ago or two years ago, God gathers us in. God takes all the broken branches, the lost limbs, and works to make our trees whole and beautiful again.  To grow new green shoots of hope and love and peace and justice. 

Advent Devotional – Dec. 19