Advent – Isaiah 9:1-7

posted in: Isaiah, Old Testament | 2

2

Welcome to the first full post in a mini-series on Advent. These posts will play around with 5 passages I’ve found powerful and helpful in the run-up to Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but from where I sit 2016 has been an ‘interesting’ year. Regardless of your politics, prayerfulness, or personal morality, 2016 has been full of surprises and the unexpected. There is an alleged old Chinese proverb which has perhaps been over-said this year:

 

May you live in interesting times

 

I think it is fair to say that those of us aware of what has been going on this year in our world are and have been living in interesting times. And interesting times would be a fair summary of both the context of the birth of Jesus (political upheaval, migration, empire, etc) and our own time. And so today I’d like to look very briefly at one of the great Advent passages. Isaiah 9:1-7. Would you read them with me?

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

 

Isaiah 9 opens in a time of turmoil. Countries and nations humbled. Hints of Galilee being made great again. There are those beautiful words in verse 2, words to cling to in the darkness throughout life, regardless of season or sacramental status; ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned‘. I wonder if that resonates with you. When I look around our country, around our culture, around our continent, around our planet, it feels dark. Not just the weather but the rise of violence and polarisation, the emergence of this concept of ‘post-truth’ politics, the blatant ‘hints’ of fascism creeping around. As a follower of Jesus, I am meant to be someone who brings light. Yet sometimes it feels that we are living in a land of deep darkness.

A light has dawned

Isaiah goes on – a military victory from Israel’s past is used as a prompt to remember God’s victorious plans, but also the end of violence. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. Here, in a passage used by the Church throughout her life to prepare for Christmas, is a wonderful picture of what the Kingdom of God when it comes in its fullness will ook like. Everything involved in violence will be replaced. This is a tantalising vision for a citizen of a country involved in the arms trade. It is even more a provocative picture for the citizens of cities in the Middle East bombed and broken, crushed under the heel of the warrior’s boots, and dashing through the dust in garments covered in blood.

But where, oh where, will this picture solidify into reality? Who will lead us? Who will bring peace?

Isaiah goes on: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. Here is the great mystery of the Incarnation. Here is the great challenge of the topsy-turvy Kingdom of God. That the way the violence will cease, the way God’s people will be gathered and set free, the way that light comes to a dark world, is found in a child. Advent is nearly over – Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of a child is just around the chronological corner. Can I invite you to sit at the edge of the fire with me? Watching a candle flicker into life? Seeing what God says about the coming of His Son?

And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

I don’t know if you ‘do’ Christmas. I don’t know if you ‘do’ Advent. You may not even recognise the reality of Jesus. But if you are reading this, then, like me, you live in interesting times. What if there could be light in the darkness of this world?

 

Stay Connected - or tell your friends!
error

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *