The Christ of Advent - Isaiah 9:2-7
… from a sermon delivered on December 18, 2011
‘Tis the season when all kinds of invitations come our way: Christmas parties, family gatherings, office parties…
But for many, these times of celebration represent only a very temporary relief from the emptiness, anguish, or the heavy burden felt in day-to-day life. Perhaps there are those among us who know exactly what I’m talking about and you have come to this church this morning for all kinds of reasons, even for those you can’t fully explain.
In a season of brightly lit Christmas lights and glowing candles, there are so many whose lives are marked by the darkness of despair or the burden of hopelessness. Especially for those, but really for us all, this ancient word from the Hebrew prophet is for each and every one. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
In this passage, Isaiah joyfully proclaims how this light announces abundance, provision, and care. How it breaks like dawn into our confusion and gloom and shatters the yoke of oppression, whatever that might be for you, that is weighing you down and imprisoning your soul.
From the way Isaiah describes it, you would think the one the light bears would be some incredible super-hero like figure, a jackbooted warrior for truth and justice with weapons and powers like those portrayed in this season’s best selling video games.
But it’s not… this dispeller of all darkness, this light-emanating liberator
Comes as a child…
Comes, Isaiah tells us earlier, as Emmanuel, God-with-us…
God’s only son given to us who is…
The Wonderful Counselor – the title describes one who is as wise as God Himself; whose counsel is supernatural in its origin, exceeding the limits of the greatest human wisdom.
This one, who comes to us as a babe, is also Mighty God. Not only is His wisdom of supernatural origin, His birth is of supernatural origin. He is not the greatest human being to ever be born and live. He is very God in human flesh, as the transcendent one becomes one of the created. The immortal experiences mortality, for He truly wants to be with us, in all of humanity’s glory as well as with us in our humiliation and suffering.
He is the Everlasting Father and so Isaiah further ascribes to this child the attributes that belong only to God the Father. This child, this babe is the Prince of Peace whose weapons of unconditional love and complete and perfect sacrifice were the only powers able to defeat the darkness and death and destruction that haunts our personal lives and pervades our world.
Darkness and death do not have the final word. For this babe, this child, God’s son “… will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”
The first throne this child ascended was the throne of a cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. And the prophet Isaiah later declares that by that one supreme act of God’s unconditional love, this child, this babe, this one and only Son of God has secured (Isaiah 25:6-8) “… a feast of rich food for all peoples… a banquet of aged wine, of the best meats and the finest wines.”
By this one supreme act of God’s unconditional love, this child, this babe, this one and only Son of God has destroyed “… the shroud that enfolds all peoples and the sheet that covers all nations; [for] he will swallow up death forever. He will wipe away the tears from all faces (and) He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth.”
This child, this babe, is Jesus, the one and only Son of God, the Christ of Advent. But not just for the season of Advent and the reason for Christmas, but for all times, all lives, all people, all conditions we find ourselves in. For this child, this babe is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And as the day of Christmas 2011 nears, there is one final invitation, the most important one you will receive this Christmas season and in your entire life that remains: It is from God to you, inviting you into the life of Christ, as your Savior and Lord. Today, I want to give you the opportunity of unwrapping the most profound, life changing, life giving gift you can ever get: new life in Christ. I urge you to say “yes” to God’s invitation to life in, with, and through Christ.
And if you find that you just don’t know how to respond to this wonderful invitation, find a copy of the song O Little Town of Bethlehem and pray the words of the last stanza of that hymn:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
If you pray that prayer, then you will have said “yes” to the most life giving, life changing, life extending invitation you can imagine.
It is the best gift you can possibly receive this (or any) Christmas.