It Is What It Is – But It Isn’t What It Will Be!

Advent 2A–  It Is What It Is…But It Isn’t What It Will Be

Isaiah 11:1-10

December 4-5, 2010


Each decade seems to have its own catch phrases.

The 60’s and 70’s had, “Make love not war.”

The 80’s were inspired by the movie Wall Street and its famous line, “Greed is good.”

The 90’s were marked by the phrase, “It’s all good.”

The conversation went something like this,

“Sorry I couldn’t meet you last night.”

“No worries. It’s all good.”


And then times changed.

The carefree 90’s were gone.

9-11 happened.

The war on terror began.

The economy tanked.


In the midst of disillusion,

the phrase of this decade has been, “It is what it is.”


You’ve heard it…

It seems to be a favorite one in sports.

Football coaches when faced with a loss that ‘shouldn’t’ have happened,

throw up their hands and say, “It is what it is.”


The wide receiver Devin Thomas is released from the Redskins

and in an interview says, “You know, it is what it is.”


Economists stuck with a financial situation they can’t explain,

shrug their shoulders and say, “It is what it is.”


It’s a coping strategy I know – but not a very good one.

It signals helplessness and despair.

There isn’t a lot of hope in that phrase.


True, “It is what it is…” may describe the situation.

But as believers we know, “It isn’t what it will be!”

It is what it is…but it isn’t what it will be!

That’s Isaiah’s phrase.


Isaiah writes in a time when Israel was in the midst of despair.

The Assyrian army was at its doors.


Today we’re reading from chapter 11…

At the end of chapter 10 we hear Isaiah

say that God has a plan –

oh yes, God has a plan – but maybe not the one they hoped for.


God’s plan is that God will come and cut down all the trees in Israel.

Isaiah says “boughs will lopped off with terrifying power.”

“The tallest of trees will be cut down.”

“The thickets of the forest will be hacked down with an ax.”

“Even the famed tall trees of Lebanon will fall.”

Israel will be left as just a stump.


Chopped down, lopped off,

devastated, destroyed,

ashamed,  humiliated.

Only the stump will be left.

Only the stump…..

It is what it is….

But….and we move to chapter 11.


Miracle of miracles…

All is not lost.

Something more will happen.

More will come from that stump.


A root will take hold in that very stump which seemed so utterly destroyed;

indeed the root will grow deep and a shoot will come up;

the shoot will grow and then – could there be? – yes, there will be a branch

coming out of that stump of despair!


A shoot will come out of the stump.

Life will come out of death.

Hope will come out of despair.

For Israel – and for us.

It’s the Advent message of hope.


It is what it is…but it isn’t what it will be.


Isaiah goes on to describe that shoot.

A new ruler will come.

He will be wise.  He will be mighty.

He will be filled with the spirit.

He will be a descendent of David –from the line of Jesse, David’s father.


(And for the 2nd sermon in a row,

I’ll remind you that we Christians see significance

in the fact that  Jesus is a descendant of David.)


And with this new ruler the world will be transformed.

The whole nature of things will be different.

Wolves living with lambs.

Leopards sleeping with baby goats instead of eating them.

Cows and bears dining together.

And children playing with snakes.


The American painter Edward Hicks

called this new world the Peaceable Kingdom.


Isaiah closes the passage by saying that it is a time when violence is over.

No one will any longer be hurt on God’s holy mountain.


And we still cry, “When oh God, when?”

North Korea continues to make threats against South Korea.

A fire destroys buildings, homes, and livelihoods in our community.

Families are hurt by poverty and unemployment.

Children are hurt by those who ought take care of them.

We’re playing with snakes…and we’re getting bitten.


We are still living surrounded by stumps.

When will the hurting stop?

When will the Peaceable Kingdom come?


I hope this doesn’t discourage you,

but it’s here (in some ways).

and it’s also not yet here (in other ways).


God is here.

Jesus has been born.


We don’t pretend each Advent that Jesus has not yet been born.

We don’t ask each other,

”Hmmm… I wonder who’s going to show up in the stable this year?”


We know – Jesus has been born.   Jesus is born. God is here in our lives today.

Violence, destruction, and disease cannot take God away.


Sometimes we even see a glimpse of this God…

This week I was reading our Isaiah passage to one of our shut-ins.

Oftentimes when I visit, she doesn’t say a word.

On this day, as I read the Isaiah passage she repeated the phrase

over and over “as the waters cover the sea,”

“as the waters cover the sea.”


Someday, Isaiah says, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,

as the waters cover the sea.

That was a glimpse of God.


We do live among many stumps of life…

We feel at times chopped down, defeated, despairing.

but the promise of Isaiah and the promise this Advent is that shoots come out of stumps.

Life comes out of death.

Hope comes out of despair.


As you come forward for Communion this morning,

take a closer look at the parament on this side of the altar.

It depicts this passage from Isaiah.

A shoot grows out of a stump.


It is what it is…but it isn’t what it will be.

Thanks be to God.




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