2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of the oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
The first people who heard this prophesy from Isaiah didn’t celebrate Christmas. This was a prophesy addressed to the people of Israel, and when they heard it, their world was in chaos, under threat, and in turmoil.
It was into that reality that Isaiah spoke a word of hope: about light breaking in a world of darkness, about a child being born whose reign would bring peace, about justice and righteousness becoming the standard fare. In light of this hope, God’s people were called to wait – and to work – for the promise to become a reality.
When we read this passage on Christmas Eve it is usually right at the moment when the light from the Christ candle begins to be passed down the aisle and across the pews. The soft strains of “Silent Night” begin. The electric lights in the sanctuary dim and the faces of those gathered for worship are aglow by the soft yellow of a single flame.
For me, that exact moment is when it feels like it is Christmas. It’s when I begin to finally relax from all the hustle and bustle of the season that is required to make it to that point. It’s when I can take a breath and remember that God’s promises are true: that a child has been born to us, and that through him there will be everlasting peace.
This year, I am mindful that the world we live in feels like it is in chaos. I am mindful that there are many in our world who live under constant threat. I am mindful that so many lives are in turmoil. And I am mindful that it is precisely “unto us that a child is born…”
We trust – and we know – that God’s promises will become manifest; that the child born unto us loves this world enough to save it. This Christmas, may we wait – and work – for that promise as if we truly believe it.
We give you thanks, O God, that your light shines in places that feel dark, stuck, and scary. And on this Christmas Eve, we pray that hope will bloom and that peace will reign… forever. Amen.