Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Mary and Joseph’s hometown, Nazareth, has a special meaning: the root of the name is netzer, a Hebrew word meaning shoot or branch. It is used in Isaiah 11:1-4, a traditional Advent text.
When a tree is chopped down, a shoot will sometimes grow from the stump, enabling a new tree to grow from the old. Adam Hamilton writes:
When the village founders named their village Nazareth they may have chosen this name as away of expressing hope that God would once again restore Israel—that though Israel had been cut down by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and then the Romans, a branch would come up from the stump. They may have chosen this name because, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, it was a sign that there are no hopeless causes with God. They may have chosen this name as a way of articulating their hope that one day the Messiah would come to Israel. It was as if they were saying, “We believe there is always hope. We believe God will deliver us. We believe the day will come when God will send a new king who will deliver us.” Little did they know that the branch foretold in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah would be a child who would grow up in their own village!
Just as the people of Israel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, we Christians ought to look forward to his second coming. Does the prospect of his coming fill you with hope or fear? What can you do now to be ready when he comes?