“It’s Still Christmas…”

“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.

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.”

Isaiah 9:2-7

At the center of Isaiah’s prophecy, is a declaration about the season we are
Celebrating: It’s still Christmas until Friday, which is Epiphany!

“Unto us a child is born…
He will be called Prince of Peace.” (9:6)

That word “peace”, biblically, means more than the absence of war:
It means when every living thing follows the destiny God has given it.
The promise is that we can experience this peace, when we say Yes to God
and join his people in their journey through exile to freedom.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to a people who have come through a lot of storm
and stress: When you go through something like that, it is hard to see clearly
what is possible now, and what might be in the future. The best way to orient
yourself is to be reminded of the good – the God things that have happened in
the past. Isaiah speaks about that God thing, when he mentions in the same
chapter: “… the day of Midian’s defeat.” (9:4)

The story is this: In the time of the Judges (chapter 7), the Israelites were
under the harsh rulership of the Midianites. Israel cried out to God. God
raised up Gideon, to lead God’s people against the Midianites. Gideon went
with 30,000 men to the battlefield.

Then God said: “That’s too much – you can do it with less….” 20,000 went
home. Still, God said: “Too much – you don’t need that many…” God sent
Gideon to the battle with just 300 men. They defeated the Midianites
without lifting a sword.

We often think that if we had done more in the past; if we had more, now; if
we could only have more in the future – that would mean we are strong,
secure, and safe.

But God, through Isaiah, says this to a people willing to listen: “Simplify.
Begin with Me. Speak to me, and then look at who you really are; what you
really have; what you really should do….”

We all have 30,000 things going on in our lives…. We’re flooded and we
know it. But maybe we only need 300 or even just 3. Maybe that is what the
storm and stress of the last few years have been about – God, saying to us:
“Simplify. Begin again. Get rid of the extra, and build from the foundation,
up…” It is what Jesus did. He didn’t start with 30,000 or even 300. Just 12
disciples. He began with people like you, like me, and said: “Follow me. I
have more grace for you than you can possibly imagine. Leave your past
behind. Take your worry-filled eyes off the present, and light a candle with
me tonight.”

God’s answer to all that we think we need, is just one thing – one person:
God’s answer is the gift of a Child, the One we celebrate in the Christmas
Season. Jesus is the gift of Life against death; against our distress, anguish,
and spiritual hunger.

Come, out of the darkness and into the light of this, Christmas season.

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