Isaiah and the Baptizer from our Readings this Second Sunday of Advent conspire to give us animal dreams.
[source: Holy fishes: Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12 by Frederick A. Niedner, November 30, 2004].
Where the wild things are.
Broods of vipers from Matthew 12:34, and babies playing with cobra’s and puff adders from Isaiah 11:8.
The wolf and lamb; leopards and goats, calves and lions; cows and bears, all good neighbors from Isaiah 11:6.
As the mystical poet Rumi put it,
“Quit acting like a wolf and feel the Shepherd’s love filling you.”
These verses speak of no separation of prophetic vision from personal character.
As wild animals and people, whom had become estranged, now learn to live in peaceful co-existence, so too even now will the repentant person, estranged from God by sin, return to tranquil living in Messianic Kingdom now.
Rabbi Ari Lamm gave a great explanation of repentance when he was interviewed on a podcast. He said that in the Jewish tradition, repentance is an example of time travel because true repentance changes both your future and your past. He says, “If you repent properly, what God promises is that He will change who you are. It’s a question of identity.” [Rabbi Ari Lamm speaking in podcast].
I want to rephrase that by number 1215 of the Catechism that baptism actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit and makes us a new creation. So, those who sincerely repent and receive the sacrament of repentance are a fundamentally different person by once again becoming that new creation. We taste it now, with the recognition that full relief from the consequences of sin will come to fruition when Jesus comes again, which is Advent hope.
2. Isaiah and the Baptizer also conspire to give us roots and shoots. The prophet Isaiah did not have a Christmas tree. He had a stump of Jesse with a single shoot growing from it. The stump happened when the Assyrian Empire would capture the Northern Kingdom of Israel due to Israel’s sin and lack of repentance which happened in 721 B.C, as Isaiah the other Hebrew prophets had foreseen. Reduced to a stump, “cut down;” as “every tree that does not bear good fruit” as we hear John the Baptist say in our Gospel today.
We start from where we are. We have all experienced feeling reduced to a stump of disappointment. But a shoot is a sign of hope.”
Isaiah says, “on that day” forty-fives times, which is how our First Reading begins this Sunday.
The prophet declares that God will conclusively intervene, that his will be done in the heart of human and animal affairs.
As 1 Corinthians 14:25 says: that intervention will settle all unfinished business, lay bare the secrets of every heart, and execute a holy judgment on all man’s doings.
But there is a seven-fold gift of Spirit is dancing over the tree stumps, like a hopeful, consoling Christmas lights that shine upon it.
The vision of Isaiah is the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world of smoldering stumps. Life inside can be filled with hope from the “The Shoot from the Root of Jesse,” by our repentance and bearing good fruit.