Every Advent we hear hope-filled oracles from the prophet Isaiah, words that tell us about what that day will be like when the Messiah comes. As we reflect on these prophecies, we can see how they speak not only to the prophet’s own time but also to what life is like now that Our Lord has come—and to what life will be like when he comes again in glory to establish his eternal kingdom.
Today’s first reading is a perfect example of these three dimensions. First, Isaiah speaks to the people of Jerusalem who are facing an increased threat from Assyria. Yes, the king of Assyria may come and lay an axe to the tree of Jerusalem, but God will never abandon his people. Even if King David’s dynasty is reduced to the hacked-off trunk of a once flourishing tree, a “shoot” will appear, and new life will spring up again.
On the second level, we can see that Jesus himself is this anointed Messiah sent by God. He is the true Son of David, filled with the Holy Spirit, who has inaugurated a new era for his people. Because of Christ, we are already living in God’s kingdom, where redemption has been won, and we have been set free to live in peace.
And yet we know that the world is not yet fully under the reign of God. Sin persists, both in our culture and in our hearts. And that’s where the third level comes in. In addition to giving hope to the people of ancient Jerusalem and painting a picture of the age of the Church, Isaiah’s words give us hope for the future. They tell us about the peace, harmony, healing, and justice that we will all come to know after Our Lord’s Second Coming. They tell us that this world will eventually give way to a new creation, where every tear will be wiped away and suffering and death will be no more.
As the season of Advent unfolds we should lift up our hearts and take courage, because Jesus, the promised Messiah, is our peace and our salvation.