The last finals of the semester are now in the rearview mirror, the Christmas holiday is just days away, and the world seems to be on fire, as it always does in the age of 24/7 news and endless connectivity. In lieu of all the various law-related posts that have been percolating over the last few weeks that I have not yet had a chance to formulate and write up, I want to reflect ever so briefly on the season we find ourselves in.
A number of traditional passages of Scripture get bandied about this time of year.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
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.” 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.
Christians believe that these statements from the prophet Isaiah came to fruition in Jesus of Nazareth.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
It’s lovely this time of year, what with trees and lights popping up everywhere as we go about our day-to-day lives. And these Scripture passages are small, anodyne talismans that mark our advent calendars and church services.
But it is easy to lose sight of the point when we are contemplating creche scenes, holiday parties, and family get togethers.
But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. . . . 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. . . . the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken . . . .
There is much darkness in the world today, as there was when Jesus of Nazareth entered the world. And he took it upon himself to go to the broken and assure them that there was hope.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
That is the good news, or “gospel,” that he preached as he wandered about the land of Israel roughly two thousand years ago. And that is the good news he has tasked his followers with spreading to the world at large.
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As we head into the Christmas holiday and enjoy the comfort of warm homes, the company of family and friends we love and cherish, seemingly endless food spreads, and gifts abounding, may we take more than a moment to remember those whose homes have been bombed out, who have lost their family and friends, and who are subsisting from day-to-day and do not know if there will be a “tomorrow.” May we find a way to do something to help those in need, right around the corner and on the other side of the world. May we ease the burdens of others whenever we find them. May we bring the “good news” that we believe to those who are desperately in need of it. There’s much to do and never enough time to do it.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!