Read Isaiah 11:1-9.
Isaiah’s prophetic words give the Jews a glimpse of what’s to come after the occupation of the Assyrian empire. In times of trial and hardship, Isaiah reminds us that as God’s people we are called into the work of creative imagination. What does God’s realm look like, and what can we do to start preparing the way? What do we have to hope for?
I look forward to the time when truth will prevail and justice, mercy, and peace will be abundant. But in this scripture, Isaiah knows that just painting an abstract picture using these thematic concepts doesn’t cut it as prophetic work. Isaiah gives details of the coming reign of God. We’re shown exactly the specific kind of world-altering stuff that’s in store. God’s kin-dom is as unnatural as a calf in relationship with a bear cub, or a lion who’s gone vegan. We’re given the details because God’s work is specific. It is not enough to demand justice, equity, and affirming love for all. We must be specific and call our beloved siblings by name, just as God does, and imagine the explicit reforms necessary to prepare the way of the Lord in ourselves, our communities, and the larger structures in which we operate.
In this Advent season, we can use our imagination to picture the details of what’s to come. In this work we will be told that what we want is unnatural, or that we are ourselves are unnatural, but the text tells us that the very realm of God is unnatural, so let us be bold in our actions and self-love.
Holy God, inspire within us the courage to envision an unnaturally better world. Help us to ask big questions and not shy away from complicated answers. Help us abide in undying hope, and be with us as we take the first step in the ordained work of creating. Amen.