Isaiah 9.2-7 / Advent Midweek 2A
Epiphany, Castle Rock / December 11, 2013
By Rev. Robert Harmon
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
After a week of unseasonably cold temperatures, several snow storms and days on end when the temperature never rose to the freezing level, I was delighted to have a warm day yesterday! The sun was out, my face didn’t hurt when I walked the dog and the ice over Cherry Creek had holes big enough for the ducks to paddle around in. So it was with great excitement that I walked into the house yesterday and announced to the kids, “it’s a beautiful day today. The snow on the driveway is melting!” Without missing a beat, Emily replied: “Aslan is on the move!”
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Aslan is the Christ figure in C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. Narnia has been under the curse of the White Witch for centuries and under her rule, the country is covered in snow and “it’s always winter but never Christmas!” One day Aslan returns from His Father’s country across the sea and the moment He arrives the spell is broken, the snow begins to melt, the rivers thaw and the people rejoice to receive their king!
Although he left out the talking lions, Isaiah is telling pretty much the same story in tonight’s Old Testament reading. After a long, dark, miserable existence under the curse of sin brought on by a talking snake, Isaiah joyfully prophesies to the people of this cursed planet: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them the light has shined . . . . For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end!” (Is 9.2, 6-7).
God is faithful to fulfill the promise He made through Isaiah and 700 years later a ‘great light’ shines over a stable in Bethlehem “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the [bright light of the] glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord . . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2.8-10; 13-14).
The snow on the driveway is definitely melting now! God’s long promised Prince of Peace has arrived! Light has shined in the darkness! (cf. Jn 1) but when Joseph, Mary and Jesus wake up in the morning, the world looks pretty much the same as it did the day before and there is precious little peace to be seen anywhere! The Roman soldiers still occupy their country. The Holy Family is still practically homeless and living in a barn. Mary and Joseph will suffer their whole lives under the stigma that Jesus was born to unwed parents (cf. Jn 8.41) and to top it all off, the ‘Prince of this world’ is not too keen on having his rule overthrown by the Prince of Peace. St. Matthew reports in chapter two of his Gospel: “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2.13).
Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Now run for your lives! It just doesn’t quite make sense does it? And yet you and I know it’s true. Just like Mary and Joseph, the Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace has come into your life and mine and yet there are still thorns of suffering and wicked King Herods who threaten us and make our lives miserable. But then again, maybe we really shouldn’t be so surprised, after all, Jesus told us it would be like this. “In the world you will have tribulation” our Prince of Peace promises in John 16, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (Jn 16.33).
And that’s precisely why He came, isn’t it? To overcome the world. The Prince of Peace comes this Advent to shine His great light of forgiveness into your darkness of sin; to shine the light of His loving Grace into my dark and unbelieving heart. ‘For unto a Child is born, a Son is given, a baby whose government of peace will know no end.’ (Cf. Is 9.6-7).
In time, the new born baby Jesus grows up to be a man—the Son of man—and yet His life ends the very same way it began that night so long ago in the Bethlehem manger. Naked and helpless, unable to dress or feed Himself because of the nails that hold His hands and feet to the cross, Jesus dies as He was born, at the mercy of the very people He came to save. And that, beloved of the Lord, is the Peace our Prince has come to give us. The Holy Spirit describes it this way Colossians 1: “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son . . . . making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [Christ] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,” (Col. 1:13,19-23). This certainly is Good News! Through the cross of Jesus we are reconciled to God by grace through Faith! In Baptism, God the Father Himself seals us with His own Holy Spirit, the guarantee of our heavenly inheritance! (cf. Ephes 1.13).
And yet today, you and I still need to make our way here, in the semi-darkness of this life. Tonight as you and I live confidently in the promises of Immanuel, ‘God with us’, we still have the Herod’s with us too! Every year at Advent you and I are rightfully confident to look forward in hope to God’s final deliverance, the fullness of the Light of Christ that will once and for all dispel all darkness, establishing forever the government of the Prince of Peace—but do you and I enjoy the fullness of His ‘Peace’ today?
As you take an honest look at your life tonight, the second week of Advent 2013, what fear robs you of the fullness of the Prince’s Peace?
In chapter 8 of his letter to the violence plagued Christians in Rome, St. Paul asks: “Are you afraid of trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (v. 35). “Are you afraid of death or life, angels, demons, the present circumstances of your life or maybe an uncertain future?” “What is it in all creation” St. Paul asks, “that brings YOU the most fear?” (Ro 8.39).
An experienced and loving pastor, St. Paul knows that when life gets scary and confusing, when satan is allowed to interfere with our ‘peace’ you and I are tempted to believe our hard times are a sign that God is angry and punishing us. On the really bad days we may even begin to despair that God has stopped loving us altogether! Of course, in the bright light of day, nothing could be further from the truth!!! When the ‘prince of this world’ robs you of God’s gift of Peace, St. Paul re-focuses your gaze and points you and me to look away from our trouble and to look instead to the Prince of Peace and His coronation on the cross: “He who did not spare His own Son” Paul writes, “but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Ro 8.32).
God proves His love for you by giving up His own Son, allowing Him to be tortured, beaten and killed in your place, so that you might enjoy an eternity of Peace with God. Tonight, the Holy Spirit is pointing out to peace-deprived Christians like us that since God has not withheld even His greatest treasure, His beloved Son in whom He delights—since God has not held back even Jesus, but has given Him up for your salvation, is there now any good thing that God will keep from you? NO! Of course not! In His one and only Son, Jesus, the babe born in the manger to take your place on the cross, God has already spent everything He has to buy your Peace and He is not about to withhold the pennies we ask from Him now! The pennies of food, health, love and yes, even life after death.
“For I am certain” St. Paul concludes, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [you] from God’s love for you in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8.38-39).
And that, beloved of the Lord, is the “Peace of God which passes all understanding!” (Cf. Phil 4.7). This Advent the Prince of Peace once again shines the great Light of God’s love into your darkness. Tonight, your Prince asks you to allow His Peace to guard and rule in your heart until the great day of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Cf. Lk 1.79; Col 3.15).
Even so, come Lord Jesus! AMEN.