A Prayer about the Manger and Isaiah’s Tender Shoot
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Isa. 53:1-4
Gracious Jesus, before now I’ve never thought of the manger as the very place the Father “planted” you—the “tender shoot” of Isaiah’s vision. But truly, you are the root which broke through the dry ground of a fallen universe. Who could have imagined that the humble estate of a stable would become such a garden of grace and glory? Who could have dreamt that the mighty arm of the Lord would be revealed most powerfully in the weakness of your birth?
Jesus, I praise you for the humility and tenderness of your incarnation. You who created the very category of beauty—you who are quintessential beauty—became the one with “no beauty,” for us. Though I don’t fully understand all that entailed, to look away from your cradle to your cross brings this hard prophecy to life.
You literally became everything ugly and vile about my sin. You became sin for me that in you I might be clothed and become the very righteousness of God. You who shared the eternal delight of the Godhead and the adoration and esteem of angels became the despised and rejected one for us—for me.
You who are the fountain of pleasures, whose laughter fills heaven, whose joy is our strength, became the man of sorrows for us—for me. And though you didn’t remain a tender shoot, you have retained all tenderness. Lord Jesus, no one is familiar with suffering like you. In taking up your cross, you took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. What a wonderful, merciful, tender Savior you are!
If I can make progress in only one thing this Advent season, Lord Jesus, may it be to have a much greater esteem for you. Intensify my love for you, deepen my awe of your manger and your cross, and make me much more the tender man that the gospel is calling me to become. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and gracious name.