God’s Christmas Gift to the World

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Isaiah 9:2-7

Merry Christmas!

This morning I’d like to offer some thoughts about God’s gift to us, his Son, Jesus Christ, from the reading we heard from Isaiah.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” it begins; “those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”

There is a contrast here between darkness and light.  What does this contrast represent?

Twenty years ago I would have said that the darkness here represents people who know nothing of Christ.  The Jews, to whom this passage was first written, why, they knew nothing of Christ because they had lived before his time.  As for the Gentiles all around them, well, they obviously knew nothing of Christ either: they weren’t God’s chosen people, the people through whom God would redeem the world.

Also, so my reasoning went, there are many people in our world today who do not know Christ.  Just think of all the world religions that claim that he is only a good teacher and not the Savior of the world.  These, I said, are the people in darkness today.  They need a light.  And that light is Christ.

So, twenty years ago, in my youthful zeal to serve God—not to mention in my youthful conviction that I had unlocked secret truths of the scriptures—I was ready to sell all my worldly possessions and move to Botswana, or Myanmar, or China, or Russia; to somewhere, anywhere, that was in need of Christ’s soul-saving light.

Fortunately, Holly wasn’t ready to make such a move with me.  She keeps me grounded.

Now, however true all that stuff may be—that there are many places in the world that could benefit from the soul-saving light of Christ—twenty years later I see that this is not what Isaiah is saying after all.  Not at all!  For the rest of the passage—even all that familiar stuff we hear sung year after year in Handel’s Messiah—is all about politics.

Listen to just a sampling of phrases:

  • “You [i. e., God] have multiplied the nation”—Isaiah was addressing a national issue, not just one about an individual’s salvation from sins.
  • “They rejoice . . . as people exult when dividing plunder”—plunder is the wealth that comes from military victory.
  • “For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken”—yoke, bar, rod, burden, oppressor: these are words conveying slavery.

This whole passage is politically charged.  It is about a specific kind of liberation: not about one individual being freed from his or her own sins, but about one nation being freed from the domination of another, like when God freed the nation of Israel from the oppression of Midian.

Remember that story?  It involved a certain judge named Gideon.  The nation of Midian—a distant relative of Israel in fact—was bullying Israel.  Israel would plant crops.  And just when the crops were ready for harvest, numerous Midianite troops would move onto the Israelite fields, consume the crops for their own purposes, and trample what was left over.  In this way the people of Israel went hungry and cried out to God.  He raised up for them a judge named Gideon who miraculously delivered Israel from the bully Midian’s hand.  Read all about it in Judges 6-8.

Point is, this is the type of deliverance from oppression Isaiah is talking about.  It’s corporate.  It’s relational.  It involves one society against another.  It’s not individual—as I once believed, and as a good part of evangelical America believes today.

So, what are we supposed to do with this information?  Isaiah tells us that Christ came into the world to deliver one nation from the oppressive rule of another.

That mold certainly fit with what was going on in Jesus’s day.  The strong and mighty Romans ruled far and wide.  The ragtag Jewish nation in Palestine felt Rome’s presence continually.  They longed for deliverance, for the day when once again there would be a king like David, a man after God’s own heart, on the throne, ruling with justice, peace, and righteousness.  It was a nice dream for them, sure!

But what about for us?  We live in a day, by and large anyway, when nations cooperate with one another.  America doesn’t overwhelm, suffocate, and suppress other nations.  What does Isaiah’s Christmas message have to do with us?

I remind you, this is a good problem.  It wasn’t so long ago that a political man was trying to establish a world-wide tyranny.  That man’s name was Adolf Hitler, and he liked to refer to himself at the Kaiser.  Kaiser, by the way, is the German derivative of Caesar, itself an idiom for emperor.  Adolf Hitler fashioned himself as emperor of the world.  The world has made a lot of progress since WWII—progress for which I am grateful, and progress to which I give Christ all the credit.

But what we see here, in a word, is injustice.  God’s gift to the world, according to Isaiah, is to bring justice where it is lacking.  And regardless of whatever else we can say about our world today, there’s more than enough injustice.

Injustice happens at global levels, as it did with the Roman Empire, and as it did during WWII.

But it happens at smaller levels too.  This word we’ve heard several times today, nation, gets translated into English in other ways.  It can also mean people—as in, my people and your people—or race, or tribe, or clan, or even family.  Does injustice ever happen at these levels, between peoples, between races, between tribes, between clans, between families?  Let’s take it a step further.  Does injustice happen between individuals?

Of course it does!  And putting a stop to this—to injustice at every level—is God’s Christmas gift to us.  Shouldn’t you give the same gift whenever and wherever you are able?  It doesn’t matter if you live in Botswana, Myanmar, China, Russia, or right here in San Antonio.  Spread the Christmas gift of justice whenever and wherever you find it lacking; and in doing so you will spread God’s Christmas gift to the world.

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One Response to “God’s Christmas Gift to the World”

  1. […] God’s Christmas Gift to the World (timtrue.wordpress.com) […]

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