BY: Deacon Bill Frere.


First Reading – Isaiah 11:1-10

JRR Tolkien is the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, an epic tale of the battle between good and evil, light and darkness, faith and despair. As a very devout Catholic, he was able to weave these very familiar Christian themes into one of the most popular books of all time. In fact, in a letter to a Jesuit friend, Tolkien noted that “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

One image that stands out for me is the White Tree of Minas Tirith, the city of kings. At the beginning of the 3rd book, The Return of the King, it stood in the center of a paved court but its branches were barren and broken and the tree itself was dead. It had stood for centuries as a symbol of hope and renewal. Legend has it that, when it breaks forth again with white blossoms, it would herald the return of the King, one who would unite all people in peace and harmony. And, as the book progresses, white buds do indeed appear and finally, after evil and darkness are defeated, the King returns as promised.


Ok, so where is this going? That image of the white tree speaks to me of today’s first Reading from Isaiah! Isaiah spends much of his time condemning Israel’s kings who led the people away from God as well as the people themselves for abandoning God. And yet today, he speaks of the Tree of Jesse, the symbol of hope for the Jews and a promise of the return of a Savior, the Messiah, from the family of Jesse! And yet in his opening verse, the tree of Jesse is but a STUMP! Broken and dead! The family tree of Jesse has apparently been cut down and lies barren! But Isaiah brings hope! That lifeless stump will sprout a shoot and from that shoot a bud will blossom! And He will bring justice and peace, wisdom and understanding, knowledge and counsel! He will strike down the wicked and all will live in peace and harmony! The Messiah is coming! The King is returning!

Whether it’s the people of Middle Earth or the Jews at the time of Jesus and John the Baptist, the people have been waiting for a very long time for the Messiah/the King! And what do the white tree and the stump of Jesse bring to the people? The message is clear! HOPE! Be a People of Hope! Hope in the Lord!

But today’s readings remind us that hope is not a passive virtue (neither is faith)! Hope inspires us, motivates us, to act! Like John the Baptist, we are all called to prepare the way of the Lord; we all have to prepare for His coming! Not just doing the physical things – buying presents, decorating, baking Christmas cookies – we also have to prepare our hearts!

Many families have an Advent calendar tradition. The kids open a little window on the calendar every day leading up to Christmas and they usually find a piece of candy or chocolate! A little gift! What if we created our own version of an Advent calendar except instead of getting a gift, we give one! Every day, we do something to prepare for the coming of the Savior! Maybe it’s cleaning our room without being asked! Maybe checking in on a friend we haven’t talked to in a while. Maybe it’s checking to see if our elderly neighbor needs anything from the grocery store. Maybe it’s cleaning out the closet or pantry and donating items to a local mission. Maybe it’s praying together as a family at the end/beginning of the day. Maybe it’s just a few minutes of quiet time – no games, no electronics, just simple peace and quiet!

The signs of hope are before us! Our Savior is coming! The call for us to act is clear! Be a people of hope and action! Prepare for Emmanuel!



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