Friday, December 20, 2013

The People Have Seen a Great Light

Isaiah 9:1  But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 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 their 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 book of Isaiah can be best understood as a spiritual reflection on the life of Jerusalem during the exile of the children of Israel. The above passage has various interpretations: Jewish belief holds that this refers to past events, specifically the birth and reign of King Hezekiah. [1] There is a scholarly argument that this passage does not refer to Immanuel’s protection, but rather refers to Assyria, which broke the power of Israel.[2] And Christian interpretation holds that this passage points to the coming of Jesus, who will bring peace, justice and righteousness.    

It is helpful to be reminded of the power of the sacred scriptures to speak to every generation. These words can be more than a historical record, or a spiritual prayer, or a future hope. They are words that can re-energise those of us who live in the 21st Century. Jesus-followers believe that Christmas can be a time of reaffirming hope. Those who feel like they walk in darkness – “the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” - can discover light. If each one of us committed ourselves to bringing light into the life of just one other person – this Christmas could begin a country (and world) that is radically different.

Second Sunday in Advent
4.  God is with us
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 32.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.    

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