Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rooted in Christmas!

In his last days my grandfather didn’t know who I was.
He didn’t know who his daughters were, or his wife.
But pretty much at any moment you could walk into his room and start singing, “Jesus love me” and he would start singing along.
Something that deeply imbedded in his mind, in his person, kicked in and even though he lost touch with most of the world he knew that song.
It is these types of roots that really sustain us.
And we all have roots.
We have places that we come from, people that influenced us, and made us who we are today.
This morning the prophet Isaiah tells us that out of the stump of Jesse God is going to bring renewal to God’s people.

Funny thing about stumps is that when a tree gets to that point we think of it as dead.
But really as long as the roots are still in the ground it is still alive.
In fact, lots of trees when they get down to their stumps will be able to regenerate because of the roots.
In order to really remove a tree you have to take out the roots.
That is not so easy.
Getting rid of the roots is almost impossible.

It is no wonder that this is the image that the prophet uses to describe God’s on going action.
Even when it appears that all is lost that nothing remains God is not done yet.
Even if we cut everything off the tree, the roots remain.

This is why it is so important for us to plant good roots.
This is why it is important to give our children love, discipline, and forgiveness.
It is why it is important to sing “Jesus loves me this I know with them.”
It is those roots that will always be with them, just as God is always with us.

“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
This is one of the simplest lines of any song and yet one of the most profound.
It is not just a song for Sunday school and children it is a song for us too.
What happens when we forget this?
What happens when we forget that Jesus loves us no matter what?
I wonder if Isaiah’s audience had forgotten that God loved and cared about them.
In Isaiah’s time, just like ours, the rulers had forgotten to care for the widow’s and the poor.
They had forgotten that it was their job to protect the least among them just as God does.
Isaiah was reminding them of their roots.
Just as God once gave his people a land, a country, a home, a king so too will God once more establish all these things.

This is why Jesus has to be born in Bethlehem, because of the roots of God.
The writers of the Gospels want to make sure that they plant Jesus firmly within the history of God’s saving activity.
It is not just about having some predictions that were written in the prophets come true.
But it was about roots.
One of the questions that follows Jesus is who is he?
“Who is this that even demons obey him?”
“Is he not the son of a carpenter?”
Jesus is more than this because he was rooted in the teachings of Torah, and the prophets.
Jesus was a person who was rooted in the history of his people.
Jesus did not so much tell people something new, what he did was remind them of what God continually would say, “You are my people and I love you.”
To root Jesus in this history the Gospel writers have him born in Bethlehem because it was the city of David.
Jesse was David’s dad, and it would be from here that Jesus would come.
Both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke have genealogies at the beginning of their Gospels.
They are not exactly the same, but their intention is, it is to root Jesus in the history of God’s people.
It is to plant Jesus firmly in God’s plan of salvation.

What God desires is for us to have roots that come from God.
God desires to know God at our core and fundamental level.
To be able to recall the basic love that God gives to us through Jesus Christ.
A good question to ask in advent is?
What are our roots?
Where are we planted?

Here is why I think it is critical.
Because what is going to happen when the tree is cut down?
What happens when the tree gets too old and falls down or collapses?
What happens when we lose everything in our lives?
Where are we going to go?
What will we do?
For my grandfather the roots were so deep that even when everything had failed him.
Even when he was in a nursing home with very little to his name, he had that song still in his soul.
“Jesus loves me this I know….”
He still knew that Jesus loved him.
He knew that he was week but Jesus was strong for him when he needed it.

Here is the amazing thing even when we are dead, the roots still remain.
God is still there and brings life from the stump.
God shoots a seed from what appears to be dead.
Roots are important.
They matter a great deal, because they make everything else possible.
They make the tree blossom and thrive.
The deeper the roots the harder it is to tear it up.

I was thinking about what are some things that I might not loose.
How about the Lord’s Prayer?
I have been with people while they were dying, and I have said the Lord’s Prayer and seen people’s mouths moving with the words.
What about the 23 psalm?
This is another well known piece of scripture that we can recite.
Perhaps that is something that never leaves us.
I was once praying with a family in a waiting room as they waited for a loved one who had been in a car crash.
After I was done praying all 15 members of this family in unison started to recite the 23 psalm from memory.
It was powerful.
It was rooted into this family that even in this time God was right there with them.
And they went back to those roots for their strength.

What if we don’t have those roots?
It is never too late to start planting.
We have the opportunity to lay those foundations today.
God is always waiting and eager to have us discover the love and grace he has in store for us.

This advent is a great time to become reacquainted with our roots.
Advent is a time to not only waiting, but to remember what Jesus means for us.
Lots of people have bumper stickers and buttons that say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
I hope those stickers and battens are about more than merely spending less money, having the clerk at Target say Merry Christmas instead of happy holidays, or having a Christmas tree in the town square.
It is about reconnecting to the source, to the roots of who we are and what we are about as God’s people.
Are we about Good News for all people?
Are we about love?
Are we about grace?
Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
The root of all things is this simple song.

This Christmas may we be rooted in that love.
May we share it with the world.
May we revel in God’s redemptive act, of sending Jesus Christ into our lives and into the world.

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