These words from Isaiah 9 seem to be coming at me from all directions at the moment, more than I have noticed before in Advent:
2The 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 Counsellor, 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 for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (NIVUK)
(Here’s a video of a reading of this passage created by my colleague Graeme)
There are some incredible promises of hope here, aren’t there? A promise of a dazzling light in a time of darkness; renewed national growth and joy; victory over neighbouring countries; freedom from oppression; and of an end to violence and war. These are promises that an oppressed and vulnerable nation would readily embrace.
But the means by which God will achieve those hoped for promises is, unexpectedly, a child. It is very easy to skip past that to the grown-up Jesus because we know he is the Son and we want to celebrate and embrace his rule, the astonishing names that describe who he is, the eternal nature of his Kingdom and the new priorities of his Kingdom.
But stop for a moment and reflect again that God was going to provide a child as his way of doing things:
God in a swaddling nappy.
All that Jesus would achieve in his life, death and resurrection began with him as a child. God’s work sometimes has its origins in the unexpected and unlikely. Might we see him this year:
In the helplessness we feel as we live under Covid-19 Tier restrictions?
In the most vulnerable people who appreciate a little far more than we who have a lot appreciate abundance?
In recognising the fragility of what we used to consider ‘normal’ and now realise is transient?
In the newly-realised dependence on those whose work is usually unnoticed?
In the attitude of child who eagerly and gratefully receives a Christmas present as an example of how Jesus wants us to receive the Kingdom?
Be blessed, be a blessing