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ADVENT Hope Against Hope

Week 2 – Advent

We’re in week 2 of advent. And for many of us, advent is a new season, but it’s the beginning of the Christian church calendar, and it’s really a season about waiting, it’s a season about seeing the light thats coming, and it’s a season about hope.

Henri Nouwen – Seeds of Hope

“Often it is the dark forest that makes us speak about the open field. Frequently prison makes us think about freedom, hunger helps us to appreciate food, and war gives us words for peace. Most often, our vision of the future is born out of the sufferings of the present and our hope for others out of our own despair. The paradox is indeed that new life is born out of the pains of the old.”

To me, that IS the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is simultaneously full of despair, & at the same time, happy and hopeful.

That’s why Isaiah is one of the most well known books of the bible when it comes to advent.

Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— (Isaiah 11:2)

and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; (Isaiah 11:3)

but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4)

Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:5)

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (Isaiah 11:7)

The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. (Isaiah 11:8)

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

Title: Hope Against Hope


Season – Hope and anticipation

Where we wait

In a world – so much chaos.

We wait and remember you promises.

When we feel abandoned. – We’re NOT.

Book of Isaiah

Seems to cover a huge amount of time.

A lot of the events that are covered occur in the exile of the 6th century BC

Whole story – OT : Covenant –

The whole story of the OT is about the covenant that God made with Abraham – I will make you into a great nation.

Your people would be a light to all the nations.

All the nations of the earth would be blessed through you.

From that point on, we see God being incredibly faithful to his people, despite our unbelievable unfaithfulness.

He rescues his people from Egypt through Moses.

Really, the highlight of that whole story is during the reign of King David.

This is the time when everything is going good. And it seems like all their hopes and dreams have finally come true.

They’re no longer under oppression, they have their own king, and he’s a good King.

Poetry. Some of the most beautiful poetry that we have in the entire bible are celebrating God’s goodness during the reign of David.

If you’re familiar with the story of the Old Testament, you know if doesn’t work out that way. Following David’s reign, a lot of weird things happen. A lot of Kings that don’t serve the Lord, and Israel ends up in this period of Exile.



Which brings us to Isaiah. – In the beginning of the book, you can really see where Israel was right before everything began to crumble.

Isaiah 2:7-8

Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. (Isaiah 2:7)

Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made. (Isaiah 2:8)

So basically – Israel when they get into power, and wealth begin to act like everybody else.

The relax, and get comfortable, they forget the poor, and the marginalized and the oppressed among them.

They put their trust in their horses and their chariots – that’s an old testament way of saying their put their trust in military power.

Worship idols.

They worship idols that were crafted with their own hands.

Idol worship is really a signal for us of trusting in technology.

They made these things and then they worshipped them.

Isaiah 3:5

People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored. (Isaiah 3:5)

No one could challenge the elite.

The original idea in for Israel is that no one would ever lack. God gives instructions in the book of Leviticus to care for the poor, the alien (Immigrant), widow, the oppressed.

Everyone would be looking out for each other.

Slow decent

You can see this slow decent in the book of Isaiah – where once they were on top of the world, because of their own selfishness, by the time you get to Isaiah 11, all of that has been chopped down. All of the hope and promise seems completely dead.

This great covenant seems to be going nowhere.

This promise that Israel is going to be a great nation just seems so absurd..

Which brings us to Isaiah 11:1

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; (Isaiah 11:1)

This amazing towering tree that was the people of God – that was supposed to bring fruit and blessing to the entire world has been cut down and all that’s left is a stump.

‘The Stump’

And I don’t know how much ‘stump watching’ you do, but traditionally, nothing comes from a stump. – Nothing of life, nothing of beauty comes out of a stump.

Last year, me and Jordan had a tree that died. – Old age I’m assuming.

By the time you cut a tree down to a stump, that’s pretty much the end of that trees story.

The best thing you can do is get somebody to remove the stump.

A stump isn’t like a seed. It’s not like you just cut it down to the stump and then let it grow back up.

When a great tree has been reduced to a stump, it’s past the point of having anything to look forward to.

I want you to appreciate how complete this image is. This tree that was once so full of life, and beauty, and hope, and promise.

These were God’s people. And they’ve been reduced to a stump. How can you ever expect something good to come out of a stump.

This – picture – Isaiah sees

This is the picture that Isaiah sees – that out of a stump comes a little shoot.

Which is just a tiny little branch.

It doesn’t mean everything goes back to how it was before.

It’s small, and unglamorous, and unimpressive.

It’s not a vibrant, huge tree, just a tiny little sprout.

The powerful thing in Isaiah 11 is this image of how God takes things and takes people who have been sawed down to a stump, and then all of a sudden, one day, there’s a tiny bit of green.

Not enough to get really excited about. Just a tiny bit.

Where you barely notice, but you walk by and say ‘Hmm.. Where did that come from?’

How does this happen?

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— (Isaiah 11:2)

How is it that a sawed down stump can produce life?

Only the Spirit of God.

It’s this wild spirit that can’t be controlled, or contained.

The bible says it’s like the wind, it blows wherever it wants to.

Isaiah : Out of nowhere – comes the spirit.

So what is he talking about? He’s talking about Jesus.

This light that comes into the darkness.


The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— (Isaiah 11:2)

and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; (Isaiah 11:3)

but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4)

That’s the picture Isaiah sees when he sees Jesus coming.

Where people who were born poor, people who were born oppressed, people who are at the bottom. When the shoot comes out of the stump, Jesus is going to come and elevate the poor, bless the poor.

About You

I think this scripture is about Jesus, but it’s also about you.

Learning how God works.

It’s always the case – when we have reason to think that hope is gone, this situation we find ourselves in, there’s nothing positive to look at, there’s no reason to be encouraged, there’s no good report from the doctor, there’s nothing good happening in my relationship, everything seems to be going bad, and there’s no reason to hope whatsoever except for the fact that the Spirit of God can come and blow at any time, in any place.

As strange as it sounds, when things in your life have been reduced to a stump, that’s when God does his best work.

When we get to the place where we say “Unless the Spirit of God comes and blows, there will be no life.” God specializes in bringing something green and hopeful, when there seems to be no hope whatsoever.

I was a pretty strange kid. I know I’m still pretty strange in a lot of ways. And it’s so hilarious that so many people in this room are people that a grew up with. And NO ONE thought this is gonna be the way this whole thing turned out. With me up on the stage preaching. NO ONE saw that coming.

All along, God was working.

Lady in main. Awhile back I was preaching in main and a lady came up to me after I preached to be prayed for. Her story was that she had just found out her husband had cheated on her and was leaving her and she had 2 kids and they had no idea about any of that. And she just had no idea how to even think about something like that.


I prayed with her and I was so amazed at how I was filled with compassion but also in an incredibly strange way I felt unbelievable hope. I didn’t know what to say, I felt awkward, but I KNEW that this person was in a position to experiencing the Spirit of God moving in an incredible way.

There’s never a reason for total despair, never a reason to give up hope, never a reason to quit believing that God is up to something beautiful.

God’s not done. The story isn’t over. YOUR story isn’t over.

At the moments when you feel like you’re at your worst, and completely cut down, God’s able to come and do his best work.

So often we can think that our own stupidity is the one exception to this.

“Not me. I did this to myself.”

Which just makes you EVEN MORE like the Israelites.

Keep in mind, that the Israelites were in this awful situation because of their own stupidity. There’s was no one to blame but themselves, and EVEN then, God was still at work.

I would never want to embarrass anyone in the room, but I know the stories that are represented in these faces.

And just the fact that you’re still here in a community like this is a miracle.

No matter how far you get cut down. God is ready and willing to do his best work.

It’s not over just because it looks like it’s over.


(As we prepare communion)

I just want to say this simple thing: Wherever in your life that you feel like there’s a stump. Look closer, there’s a little sprout of hope there.

RE-READ: Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Young Girl (pic)

Young Girl – killed at hands of the Nazi’s. Wrote in her dairy and when it was released to the public changes the world.

At 13 years old, she went into hiding. She and her family hid in a secret room behind a bookshelf.

For 2 years they stayed there until they were finally discovered.

This is where she did most of her writing.

Anne was shipped off to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

When they arrived, all children under 15 were instantly send to the gas chambers. Anne Frank had turned 15 3 months prior.

Stripped naked, her head was shaved, she was tattooed, and

She developed an extreme case of ‘scabies’ also knows as ‘7 year itch’ where these mites burgh into your skin and lay eggs.

No one knows that ultimately killed her. Could be disease or execution. But it’s know that she died only a few weeks before the camp was liberated by british soldiers.



We’re much too young to deal with these problems, but they keep thrusting themselves on us. … It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. … Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.

Many holocaust survivors have written about Anne Frank, and the whole point of her story is that there was no good reason for this little girl to be so hopeful.

Even late into her brief life when she was deathly ill in Auschwitz. She was just an unbelievably hopeful and happy little girl.

Advent – Season – Hope Rises.

We invite him in, and he’s the master of bringing good out of evil, success out of failure. Healing out of disaster.

And I just think, in a life like mine, or a life like yours, where there’s challenges, and hardships, and setbacks, but also SO much that’s good and beautiful, can we find a way to let hope rise in us and believe that there’s still light to be seen.

For dreams that have died. God is wanting to grow something beautiful and green there.

(As they pass communion) – spend minute – place of hope.

Where have I let hope die or then allow God to bring that hope to life.