Summary: A sermon for the second Sunday of Advent.
My 4-year-old, whose name just happens to be Owen has book called “Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship."
The book is based on what happened to a frightened young hippopotamus, that was separated from his family by a devastating Tsunami in Southeast Asia.
Owen was rescued by people and put in an animal sanctuary.
His new home was in a part of the sanctuary shared by a 130 year-old giant tortoise named Mzee.
Mzee wasn’t very friendly and always kept to himself.
But Owen, was in search for his mother, and soon he decided that Mzee would make a good one.
At first the tortoise hissed at Owen, but the Hippopotamus did not give up.
Owen snuggled up against Mzee and soon the old tortuous didn’t seem to mind at all.
Soon Owen and Mzee were inseparable.
They swam together, ate together, drank together, and sleep next to one another.
Wildlife experts are still puzzled about how this unlikely friendship came to be.
Most have never heard of a mammal, such as Owen, and a reptile, such as Mzee forming such a strong bond.
It’s a cool story, and the pictures of the hippo and the old tortious snuggling up against each other are quite amazing.
The true story of Owen and Mzee made me think of our Scripture Passage for this morning.
Maybe you have seen the videos of a rat who rides on the back of a cat, or of a cat that hangs out with a dog?
How about a picture of a tiger nursing a bunch of piglets, or stories about a lioness adopting and raising antelope calves?
We find these kinds of things fascinating, do we not?
And surely our fascination with these things has more to it than our love of the cute and an interest in the bizarre.
We see something profound in these unusual occurrences, do we not?
And I think it is because they signify HOPE.
Because even in our broken world, we are given glimpses of the way things are supposed to be.
If even animals can squash their bloody instinct, is there a chance that we humans can do so as well?
Is there a chance that there is something beyond what we normally see in nature?
If every lion took care of baby antelopes, it wouldn’t be news.
Likewise, the picture that Isaiah paints in our Scripture passage for this morning is so remarkable because it goes against everything we know: A wolf sleeps next to a lamb and a leopard with a goat.
A cow eats alongside a bear, and a lion eats straw like an ox.
Little children play without fear.
Even snakes don’t bite.
This passage stands in direct contrast to the terror and brutality that permeates our world.
And we all know a lot about fear and brutality.
News of terrorism, war, economic collapse, and wild weather events can cause us to live with a deep sense of anxiety.
These things wreck lives.
Our fear for our children and grandchildren’s safety and future is especially pressing.
All this can cause us to really wonder: “Is there any hope?”
And apparently, according to the Prophet Isaiah, our hope begins with a stump.
Now what does he mean by that?
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
Jesse is the name of King David’s father.
And Isaiah is saying that out of the Davidic line will come a King—the Messiah—He will be a Branch that will bear fruit.
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him…
…righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.”
That Branch becomes the Tree of Life as we return to Eden in the final consummation.
Finally, broken creation will indeed become what God intended it to be.
Isn’t that an awesome thought?
I mean, God didn’t create this world to be ruled by bloodshed and survival of the fittest after-all.
It’s not supposed to be a cruel world, and it won’t always be.
But in order to get to this perfect Kingdom, we must first have a Ruler in the line of David—“The Branch” Who will come from the root of Jesse.
And that Ruler, is, of course, Jesus Christ the Lord!
The Hebrew people were waiting for this Ruler for a long time.
Remember, in John Chapter 1 when Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, after spending a day with Jesus, went running to Peter saying: “We have found the Messiah.”?
This is how strong the Jewish hope for a Messiah was.
King David’s House had fallen like a tree that will never sprout again.
All was not lost.
Isn’t it fascinating how, out of something that appears finished, lifeless, left behind and dead comes the sign of new life?