One of the amazing things about reading about the promise of a savior is that we find echoes of these old hopes for God to act in our own desire for Christ to come again. We know that God has done something amazing and decisive in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. We also know that not all is right in our world. God, we believe, will make all things well when Christ comes again in final victory.
This week, we discuss how the promises of God come surprisingly in the places of silence and death–when and where we think God might not be speaking anymore–at least, this appears to be the case for the people of Israel. Nothing happened for hundreds of years. There were no prophets and no new messages. Sometimes, we might feel this same way. Is God still speaking? Has God forgotten about the world? The promise of a savior and it’s fulfillment in Christ is assurance that we are waiting on a God who we know will act. Christ will come again. The promises we read in our lesson today may remind us not only of what God has done in Christ, but what we know God will continue to do.
Hear the Story
There isn’t really a children’s book of Children’s Bible parallel for the story this week. Read from Isaiah 11:1-9. Ask your students to listen very closely because the story might seem a bit abstract. You can help fill in the background with information from the last couple of weeks.
Respond to the Story
1. Chant the O Antiphons: The O Antiphons are from as far back as the 8th century. Each antiphon is traditionally recited on one of the seven days before Christmas during evening prayer often before and after the recitation of the Magnificat. We are most familiar with the antiphons from the Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel (where each stanza is one of the antiphons). Each stanza of the O Antiphons addresses Christ with a different name. The O Antiphons are rich with imagery of Israel’s hope for a Messiah and a rich resource for own expression of hope that Christ will come again. The Antiphon that is particularly important for us this week is the third “O Root from the stump of Jesse.” This antiphon and stanza from Isaiah work nicely with our lessons so far this fall (especially in those classes that have been following the genealogy closely. You may want to remind your class that Jesse is David’s father. Here is a short video commentary from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist on this third antiphon. I loved hearing the reflections for all of the O Antiphons from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. You may find all seven reflections here.
- You can teach your class the song O Come O Come Emmanuel to learn all of the antiphons (invite a musician to help you out!)
- show your class some of the Latin chants here. Explain that each of these antiphons is a reference to Jesus. Ask your class to share other names for Jesus that aren’t included.
- Older classes might like to write their own Antiphon. The antiphon should address Jesus and ask him to come quickly.
2. Life from a Stump: The stump is a place of death from which all growth appear to be stunted (if not entirely absent). The promises of God are like the fresh green shoots that emerge from the rotting trunk. Even though for many of the people, after so many generations, the promises of God seem to be dead, they are made alive again when the promised Messiah arrives. Discuss this imagery. You may want to go on a walk outside and notice how most of the trees have “died” for the winter. It’s hard to imagine that the new life of Spring (to which the promises of Easter are often compared) will emerge again. Respond to this image from Isaiah by creating art that depicts the Messiah as a growth of new life from a dormant or dead place. How are the promises of God like new life in this salvation story? If you are interested, here is a nice sermon on this text from a Lutheran minister.
3. Family Tree: Those of you who have been following Jesus’ family tree all fall may want to create a family tree of the Davidic line. Take a look at the generations leading up to Jesse, David, and Solomon. You can use the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 to work on this family tree. Each student can make an individual tree or the class can make a large poster together.
4. Christmas Ornament: Use supplies in the craft closet or gathered materials from outside to make a “stump of Jesse” ornament.
5. Explore another theme: Explore one of the themes below by discussing what it has to do with the promised Messiah. Then, create art images, ornaments, poems, or reflect in journals about the image.
- Justice and Equity: Our text today talks a lot about ruling or judging with justice and equity. What do these words mean? Why are they promises and what do they have to do with the Messiah/Jesus? Our text specifically mentions the poor. What does justice look like for the poor?
- The Wolf with the Lamb: The image of the wolf and the lamb is a very popular one (as is the lion and the lamb). Discuss with your class what the normal relationship between a wolf and a lamb is. They are likely very familiar with this relationship because we spent a lot of time last year talking about shepherds and sheep–that the shepherd protects the sheep from the wolf. In what kind of world do wolf and sheep get along? Why is this part of the promises of God from the prophet?
Close with a Prayer and Feast