Does that language sound familiar to you? These words from the prophet are echoed each time we celebrate the rite of Affirmation of Baptism (a/k/a confirmation) in our congregations. As those affirming their baptism kneel, the pastor prays that the gifts of the Holy Spirit within them would be strengthened – “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord”.
Those gifts were a part of the very being of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God does not hoard those gifts, though - through our baptism, those gifts have also been given to us. Unlike Christ, though, we don’t always use those gifts to promote peace on Earth. As Luther noted, we still die daily in our sin. But, we don’t stay dead. The presence of the Spirit within us is there to raise us up to new life, and to guide our feet to the way of peace.
The hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (following the tradition of the great “O Antiphons” of Advent) uses various metaphors to refer to Christ, and one of the verses includes a plea to the branch of Jesse to come. So, we pray:
Come, branch of Jesse, and stir up within us the spirit of wisdom and understanding.
Come, branch of Jesse, and stir up within us the spirit of counsel and might.
Come, branch of Jesse, and stir up within us the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Rev. Jay Denne
St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sioux City
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Sioux City