I recently had the opportunity to travel to Bulgaria. As a nation part of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, there were icons everywhere. One of the most common images was that of the Virgin Mary and the baby Messiah but with a striking difference to those of us more familiar with Western art. Christ is not depicted as an infant but, rather, with more adult-like features.
Today’s passage from Isaiah epitomizes the same idea as those icons — the ideal king come to earth. Advent is not just about the Nativity. Advent is the season when we both celebrate Christ’s coming into the world and wait with expectant hope for His coming again. Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of the coming of the Messiah who fulfills the promise of equity for the meek, justice for the poor, righteousness, and faithfulness. At the same time, we also anticipate the coming of the fullness of the kingdom of God, with all its glory and hope for what is uncommon in our world- peace, justice, and security in both the worlds of human society and nature.
The shoot from the stump of Jesse is essentially a different kind of Christmas tree than we think about during the Advent season. This passage foretells of far more than merely the arrival of Christ into this world. With Isaiah’s amazing prophecy in mind, perhaps this Christmas the baby Messiah may look less like a baby and more like a king.