Reflections

Second Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2019

The Jesse Tree (Isaiah 11:1–10)

Today’s first reading inspired the Advent custom of the Jesse tree. During Advent some households read stories from the Bible about the people and events that led up to the birth of Jesus. Those who hear the stories create depictions of them and hang these on a tree. The idea of decorating a tree comes from Isaiah’s prophecy that “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.” A “Jesse tree” reminds us of God’s marvelous plan for salvation.

The entire passage is filled with words of comfort. The shoot sprouting from Jesse is to be a leader filled with God’s Spirit—a spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. The reign of that ruler will even bring peace to animals. The lamb will host the wolf. The calf and young lion will be the playmates of a child.

Because Jesse was the father of David, the prophecy foretells an idealized time under a great king. When Christians hear this prophecy during Advent, we look further down Jesse’s lineage all the way to Jesus. Jesus was anointed with God’s spirit and brought enemies together around a common belief in God’s mercy.

The Jesse tree does not stop growing with Jesus. It continues with us. Through the new birth of Baptism and the anointing of Confirmation, God has filled us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are anointed, like Jesus, to be agents of peace.

Good Memories (Romans 15:4–9)

The memory of good times helps us through the bad times. Sometimes we wonder if we have enough strength to go on, enough charity to be kind again today, enough hope for tomorrow. The memory of good times in the past can give us strength to be virtuous. We know that adversity in the past has made us who we are today. We believe that the adversity of today will make us better for tomorrow.

God has promised good times. God made this promise through many generations of the chosen people. When they were beset by loss of property, exile, and the death of those they loved, they often wondered what their future would be. But God promised better days. They knew from the past that God delivered on promises like this, and they found hope for the present.

The promises of God were so sacred that they became our Scriptures. St. Paul says, “What ever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” By examining God’s past promises, we take comfort. We know that even in the midst of adversity, we are still held in God’s hands.

Jesus came to confirm God’s promises to the patriarchs. During Advent we hear these promises over and over again. They prepare us for the joy of Christmas. God had prepared the way for Christ, and God is still guiding the church that is Christ’s Body.

Reflections: Lectionary Bulletin Inserts: Reflections on the First and Second Readings, Year A © 2019 Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. All rights reserved. Written by Paul Turner. Lectionary for Mass © 2001, CCD.