Isaiah 9:2–7 (NIV) 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 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. 4 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. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 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. 7 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.
A light in the darkness
My dear friends in Christ,
The world we live in is a dark place. Isaiah says it several times throughout his entire prophecy. Would you agree with him? Would you say that the world is a dark place? Flawed? Yes. So dark that you can’t see anything good? That seems a little over the top.
Isaiah would disagree. He described the world he lived in with two words: “darkness” and “deep darkness.” Isaiah knew that invading nations would conquer his country, and the enemy would make life miserable for his people. Torture and executions would be everyday occurrences. Isaiah wrote about rampant substance abuse—the people of Judah were called “heroes at drinking wine.” Isaiah witnessed widespread sexual immorality. The poor were everywhere, but no one cared. No one respected the elderly—they mocked them instead. He called the world what it was—“darkness...deep darkness.”
Things haven’t changed. We live in the same dark world. We see violent terrorist attacks. We watch the foundation of society—family life—collapse as society embraces an “anything goes” sexuality. Friends turn against friends even because they belong to the “wrong” political party. Is the world we live in really that bad? Isaiah makes it clear. The answer is a definitive “yes.” First he uses the Hebrew word translated “darkness.” It includes all the negative things we see in the world around us. Maybe that’s not a such a terrible darkness. But then he uses the other Hebrew word translated “deep darkness.” It’s the same word David used in Psalm 23— “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Just in case we try to fool ourselves that the world isn’t that bad, Isaiah asks each of us, “Will you avoid the shadow of death?” That is deep darkness. We have all been touched by it. Many of our loved ones won’t be sitting at the Christmas table because of it.
The darkness deepens, if that’s possible. We are “walking in darkness.” We’re taking a stroll in it as if it were something to embrace. Remember what we heard John say about all of us? “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19 NIV).
We live in a dark world. There isn’t much hope to make it better. Can we rid the world of violence, human trafficking, poverty, and racism? Can we clean up our own hearts perfectly? Permanently? How about dying—can we stop that process? If we can’t get rid of the darkness in our own lives, how will we ever find any kind of light?
Ah, but a light flares like a single match in the depths of darkness. Isaiah said, “A light has dawned!” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV). As he describes the light it grows stronger and brighter. “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” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV). A child, a human being, brings flickering light into the world. He brings it it because of who he is. He is “Wonderful Counselor.” Jesus knows everything and will give us perfect advice and guidance for life. Jesus is “Mighty God.” The child can do anything—preach a powerful message, perform incredible miracles, and even rise from the dead! Jesus is “Everlasting Father.” He is the author and source of all life, yet brings the compassion of a father as he watches over us. Jesus is “Prince of Peace.” The angels sang that first Christmas night, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14 NIV). That’s the peace that only Jesus can bring—peace for all people!
Have you experienced a set of LED headlights coming at you as you drive home at night? Those lights pierce the darkness with an almost painful brightness, but then they pass by and the light fades. Jesus’ arrival at Christmas is like the lights of a billion LED headlights that will never go out! He has come to shine on us and drive away the darkness—the mess we’re in. If Christmas is going to be more than a nostalgic celebration with decorations and cookies, carols and gifts, then we need to stop pretending that life is all good. We need to see this world and our lives as they really are. We desperately need Jesus to be our light, and that’s exactly why he came. The angel promised, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:11 NIV).
Can we acknowledge how desperately we need this gift and then receive it? How would we react if someone close to us gave us the gift of a gym membership for a year? We look at the certificate. We look down at the out of shape body. We look back at the certificate to the gym. Our friend is telling us something—maybe something we don’t even want to admit. Tonight God offers us this gift and says, “My dear child, you are so broken, so completely unable to fix yourself that I will do it for you. I’ll send a good child, a perfect child to die for you!” We look at the baby in the manger—the Prince of Peace. We look down at the darkness of our world and our own brokenness, look back at the child and realize how desperately we need this gift—this perfect Light!
In a few moments we’re going to light our candles and sing the beautiful Christmas carol Silent Night. Then we’ll leave. We’ll get in our cars and do what? Turn on the lights. We’ll drive by our neighbors homes and see—lights. We’ll walk in the door and “turn on the lights.” We’ll plug in our Christmas trees and our Christmas villages. All those lights drive away the darkness. There’s only one light that can drive away the darkness that’s inside us. Jesus is the only light of the world. He is your light! I pray his light will keep shining in your hearts tonight and always!