Isaiah lived in a century when it was clearly evident to men of vision and to men of God that David's dynasty was passing. It would never recover from its sickness unto death. The glory of King David had lived on for a time in his son, Solomon. The nation prospered as never before. But the old enmities, the old hatreds, the old angers and mistrusts surfaced among David's grandsons.

The people and the nation were split asunder. The Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah lasted for nearly two hundred years. During that time they warred against one another, brother against brother. They sniped across their borders. They made treaties and broke them.

Then the lashing punishment of God came from the East in the form of the Assyrian armies. The Northern Kingdom was swept away in the tides of history and the vengeance of God. The ungodly armies from the East swept through the countryside. It came to the very gates of the City of God. The troops looked upon the Holy City and the Temple as well with vengeance and destruction burning in their hearts and their eyes.

Any person of vision, any person of God, could see and know that the future of that tree which was the house and the lineage of David was doomed. It would soon be cut down. The prophet spoke for God and about God's plan when he saw that a branch would come forth. It was a branch which would change the old nature of that tree, and with it would come a new age to mankind.

Is it any wonder that those followers of Jesus of Nazareth, realizing the meaning and impact of His life and ministry, saw Him as that branch? Jesus' roots were deep in the soil of Judaism. But the leaves on His tree were so different. The fruit on His tree bore such little resemblance to that old fruit. To those disciples it was clear that Jesus, born in a manger and dying on a hillside, was a banner to all the world that Paradise was reborn and reestablished.

The new age occurred when the knowledge of God and the obedience to God was reborn in that One Man. But, even more it came with power as it was reborn not just in His heart, but in the hearts of all who followed Him.

Jesus, that new branch, was one whose total being was filled with wisdom and understanding. He knew how to live in the presence of God. He understood the will and the ways of God as had no man. Jesus, that new branch, was one whose total being was filled with counsel and might. He knew how to live before others with power, the very power of God.

He was able to withstand the force of evil and the powers of destruction and death. He could offer advice to all in words that made sense to them. Jesus, that new branch, was one whose total being was filled with knowledge and fear of the Lord. He overflowed with a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord of creation, with the God of Eden. That Galilean could walk with God, talk with God, commune with God. Even more, He could teach others how to do the same.

No wonder that Christmas is so marvelous. No wonder that Advent is such an important group of Sundays for us. We are getting ready for the One who brings a new world. We are preparing for the One who recreates the old Paradise for all of us. When He is finished, when He is done with us, He has created in us a new innocence, a new peace, a new harmony.

His work accomplished, we are able to truly proclaim, "The Old has passed away, the New has come." That new is a new world of peace. That new is a new world of innocence. That new is a new world of harmony. That new is the New Age, Eden Returned, in which we can again live for and with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. That new age is indeed a return to Paradise.

"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." Amen and Amen.

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