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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Thursday, December 23

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
—Isaiah 11:1

What looks like a field of stumps to an outsider might in truth be something else: a coppice. A practice that began as long ago as 5,000 BC, and for which records—at least in Great Britain—date to the early 15th century, “coppicing” involves cutting a tree to the ground and then allowing it to sprout freely from the roots. 

Depending on the type of tree and its use, the process can take anywhere from just a few years to 20. Though coppicing is labor intensive, its benefits are clear, particularly where forestland is scarce and needs for wood products are high.

That the advent of the Messiah would be likened to this process shouldn’t come as a surprise. Much later, as the Gospel writers note, this long-awaited savior would be looked at with great incredulity.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel would ask Philip. And elsewhere, people would wonder, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?”

Springing from the stump of Jesse, Jesus came from a people whose vitality and hope lay primarily in the past. But as he so often does, God used what appeared to be dead to infuse his creation with life.

O God, help me to remember that even in the midst of death, you are giving breath to what is beautiful and healing and true.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2004.