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Monday, November 29, 2010

Virtual Advent Retreat Part One

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

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—
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;
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.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

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.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

I chose to do this section of our virtual retreat because Isaiah is my favorite of the biblical prophets. I love the soaring language, the honesty, the beauty of the poetry, the messianic passages (one commentator notes that there are at least twenty five references to the Messiah in this chapter alone) and the glorious metaphors, piled one after the other in an abundance of visual images that almost overwhelm us.

As I read the passage and began to think about what to share for this year’s virtual Advent retreat, I was focused on those metaphors. Would I talk about the righteous judge? Those evocative animal images? The knowledge of God covering earth like a sea? The wonder of God in flesh, the “shoot”—a fragile, tiny plant--a baby born in David’s line?

Or what about how this Branch would have the Spirit upon him in a way never seen before or since? Such glorious words! Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and knowledge! Ah, yes! I want those things in my life and ministry! Send the Spirit, Lord! What wonderful choices for writing…

I’m a little sad to relate that what I am about to share is about none of those things. What I couldn’t get away from was that word, fear. He will “delight in the fear of the Lord.” Not only will this expected One fear the Lord, he will even take delight in doing so!

Here is one anonymous person’s definition of what the scriptures call "fear of the Lord: “ Holy fear is worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to God.”

It made me think of a conversation in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Two of the characters (Susan and Lucy) were getting ready to meet Aslan the lion. Two talking animals, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, prepare the children for the experience.

"Ooh," said Susan, "A lion? I thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie." said Mrs. Beaver. "And make no mistake, if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then isn’t he safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you!"

God becoming flesh and dwelling among us turned out to be anything but safe. Yet Jesus the Messiah could take delight in worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to God. His obedience required more than any of us will even have to give, yet it was his delight. It was the source from which all else in the passage flows.

For Reflection
Worshipful submission: Am I submissive and worshipful on the outside while the inside is anything but? Or has submission to God become a genuine joy? How does worshipful submission look in my life at this moment and time? Is it a delight or a chore? Why?
Obedient respect: Philippians 2:12-13 says, “So...just as you have always out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose.” In what areas do I need to cooperate with what God is doing in me? Am I willing to obey, even when it costs me? Why "fear and trembling?" Why is it such serious business?
Reverential awe: How long since I was genuinely in awe of God? What did it look like? Feel like? Sound like?

You, O Lord, the almighty, glorious, holy, wise, Creator, want to work in us. This thought alone is amazing! As we consider this, we realize anew how fragile we are, how prone to take your gifts lightly, how quick to forget your goodness. Remind us that you are not safe-- but you are good. As we embark upon the season of darkness becoming light, we ask you to do your work. Together we acknowledge that if we mean these words we may, like Jesus was, be led to a place that is uncomfortable to look at, things that are difficult to hear, or choices that are not easy to make. We submit to You. We also know that we may also be led to a place of joy unspeakable and full of glory. We ask that as we spend time with you the Spirit of the LORD will rest on us—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord. May this become our delight. Amen

All are welcome to participate in this retreat, and to leave a comment on the meditations, either here or at your own blog, Facebook page, etc.

Additional reflections will appear throughout the day by Mary Beth and LutheranChik.


  1. Thank you, this is just what I need today.

  2. I must have had my head in the sand for some time as I've never participated in the Virtual Advent Retreat - or heard of it before. However, I am actually at a retreat center today and tomorrow for retreating and long term planning. I saw this post on my phone and have trekked up to the main building to copy the entries onto a document I can print and take back to my cabin. I don't have internet at the cabin, so I won't be able to reflect on line.

    It took me all morning to get things taken care of and get here. I've spent the afternoon settling in and sleeping after a HUGE day at church yesterday. Just as I begin to seek my first reflection material I find this. It's perfect.

    Thanks to all of you who are making the V.A.R. day happen :-)


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