Ten days after her husband died of cancer, a giant oak in Luci Shaw’s front yard was split by lightning and had to be felled. Men came with their screaming saws, echoing the pain in Luci’s grieving heart. They burned the stump until it was no more.
Luci talked about it with her friend Madeleine L’Engle and then wrote, in God in the Dark:
It became clear to me as I talked that the wound in the sod, with the roots of the tree still smoldering deep under the surface, is me — all raw, fevered with fire, and unhealed yet, I have to wait for the sod to grow back.
Healing has come. In the twenty-five years since Harold died, God has had a ministry for Luci. Today, even at eighty-five she is vibrant and using her gifts. Months after the episode with the tree, in early spring, hope began to return. Luci wrote: “I started the day with a fast mile walk. The air was intoxicatingly fresh…Spears of grass were pushing up through the dead pale straw, and I felt a kinship with the sod. From my reading, in the Song of Solomon this morning:
My lover spoke and said to me
“Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.
See the winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth. The season of singing has come.
Now birdsong is heard in our land.”
In the same way, the sons and grandsons of Jesse were known for their bloodshed and rape, their quarreling and pride. There seemed to be no life. Only a dead stump.
Yet Isaiah tells us:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…”
Who is this branch?
Who is this rose of Sharon?
Who is this One who gives us hope in the midst of pain?
Who is this fairest of ten thousand?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, born to us this day.
Wherever you are this Advent, if you belong to Him, there is always hope. That is what Christmas is all about — for Jesus came to our darkness, our despair — a rose bloomed out of the stump that seemed to have no life.
This version of “Lo How A Rose Ee’r Blooming” has exquisite artwork, so let it fill your heart and mind, and come back and comment on what you see. You will no doubt have to watch it several times:
It came, a floweret bright,3
Amid the cold of winter
When half spent was the night
2. Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind
With Mary we behold it,
The Virgin mother kind
3. The shepherds heard the story
Proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of Glory
Was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
And in the manger they found him,
As angels heralds said.
4. This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death he saves us,
And lightens every load.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Choose one of the following and share how a rose bloomed out of the stump this Advent:
- Reconciliation occurred with someone
- In the midst of sorrow, you saw a dripping of grace
- A carol took on new meaning and impacted your mind and heart
This is Christmas week — take the time to be with Him: Perhaps a question a day. You may, if you haven’t heard it, want to listen to Moody’s Milrose Club when we discussed Christmas if you haven’t heard it:
Listen to Sara Grove’s song: “To Be With You.”
3. Read Isaiah 11:1-5
A. Why is it surprising that a shoot would come from a stump, or that the lineage of Jesse would produce Someone so pure?
B. Share one specific way God has taken the ashes of your life, or the bondage of your sin and brought beauty from it?
C. What do you learn about the character of Jesus from these five verses?
4. Read the following article: Link
A. What verse from The Song of Songs inspired this song?
B. Some in Catholicism thought the rose to be Mary, but Protestants referred to Isaiah 11 and said it was Jesus. How does Romans 15:8-12 clarify this rose is Jesus?
C. Read Christina Rosetti’s poems in this article and find something that quickens you.
5. On Christmas Day, be so alert as to how you can trust Jesus in your sorrow and thank Him in your joy. Share something that happened.
6. Listen to this recap of the carols of Lament — I was on Live the Promise with Susi Larson:
7. Watch Ann VosKamp’s last Advent video and comment.
8. What is your take-a-way and why?
For those of you who did not get my Christmas letter — click here! I love you.