Part 1/5 of a set of reflections written for Ware Episcopal Church on the daily lectionary during Advent 3.
9Nonetheless, those who were in distress won’t be exhausted. At an earlier time, God cursed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but later he glorified the way of the sea, the far side of the Jordan, and the Galilee of the nations.
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
3 You have made the nation great;
you have increased its joy.
They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest,
as those who divide plunder rejoice.
4 As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them,
the staff on their shoulders,
and the rod of their oppressor.
5 Because every boot of the thundering warriors,
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned, fuel for the fire.
6 A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be vast authority and endless peace
for David’s throne and for his kingdom,
establishing and sustaining it
with justice and righteousness
now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this.
We’re spending a lot of time Isaiah during Advent. The joy and trouble of the daily lectionary is that we have texts that don’t seem to make a lot of sense in our context, occasionally interrupted by a passage like today’s that everybody knows and loves.
For the Christian tradition, you might say that this passage is one of Isaiah’s greatest hits: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… A child is born to us.” For me, this conjures up images of the birth of Christ, of the star in the east, of shepherds and wise men and several dozen Christmas pageants. These verses are a promise of peace, reminding us that Christ will come, and bring an end to darkness and bloodshed.
There’s something unabashedly hopeful, almost shameless about these verses. They’re surrounded, both before and afterwards, by prophesies of judgement and war upon disobedient Israel. Yet, these words of peace remind us that that’s not the end. No matter how hopeless things seem, they’re not the end.
Whatever is going on for you this Advent—exhaustion, too much to do, illness, the stress of the world we live in—I invite you to consider Isaiah’s ridiculous, prophetic hope. Despite all the cares of our worlds, there’s a promise of peace. Whatever it is, it is not the end.
Jesus is coming. Those of us in darkness will see a great light, and darkness is not our end.