Summary: The Old and the New Testaments confirm that God’s love knows no boundaries as proven by the Incarnation we celebrate this Advent season.
November 29, 2008 – Advent 1 – “Hope is Coming”
Christmas holds a place in each of our hearts. In our culture it’s a time when family, or family and faith converge. Even those for whom the season we’re approaching holds mixed feelings or painful feelings, it’s rare that Christmas is a time empty of meaning.
It is, instead, a time where children hope and parents wait and light becomes colourful and snow covers what once bloomed, yet always with the anticipation of a new day, a spring time not too many months away.
Our first Scripture passage today from Isaiah tells us of an ancient, distant foretelling of that first Christmas.
Our second passage tells us of a foretelling of the first Christmas, one received by Mary, much closer, of course, to the actual event of Christmas, which we know as the Incarnation…God becoming flesh. Let’s first read the passage from Isaiah.
[Reader 1] Isaiah 9:6 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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase 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 forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
The Isaiah passage falls within the Old Testament, which is the story of God’s creative bringing-into-being of humanity…the story of humanity’s willful denial of the One who made it…and the story of God’s ceaseless effort to reclaim for Himself those who denied Him.
It falls within the story of ancient Israel, a people to whom the One true God had revealed Himself as One, and not many (as in every other religion that existed at the time).
And yet this passage proclaims that: “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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Written 700 years before the time of our second reading, before the time of Christ, this passage begs a response from us as it did ancient Israel.
And that response depends on where we stand right now, today. If we believe in one God, as did ancient Israel, then we’re thrown into a mystery.
How, when the world we know was made and is sustained by One God, how can it be that a child is born, a son given upon whose shoulders the government…order, justice…will be placed?
How can this child, this Son, be called the Mighty God? The Everlasting Father? We understand that there is one God…but then the Scriptures tell us He is to have a Son.
And if we do not believe in one God; if we either deny the existence of our Creator or assume a host of gods…this passage still draws from us a response.
For polytheists among us, we’re told that this Son will be the Mighty God, Everlasting Father. This pretty much discounts the possibility or relevance of other gods, for they are swallowed up, should they exist, into the majesty and magnificence of this One. This One and only Son.
For those without faith in a Maker, a Creator…this passage may perhaps deposit a notion of hope. A suggestion that there is reason for reading the story to its conclusion.
That’s because this child who would be born, this Son given…this aspect of the divine life yet to be revealed, is here described not in some of the toxic ways that God has been imagined in the past.
Not as a white-haired old man sitting on a cloud and watching every wrong turn we make. Not as a judge, a cosmic killjoy who somehow manages to such all the fun out of life just by the fact of His existence.
Rather this expression of the divine is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase 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 forever.
This Biblical description of the divine presence flies in the face of what I’ve already suggested are toxic notions of God.
If it was those toxic imaginings of God that led to the rejection of God, or the choice to disbelieve, we see here that the challenge here is a profound one. We need to reimagine God not according to our culture’s description, but according to the description of God that Scripture gives us.
And Scripture tells us that a Son will be born whose Kingdom is adorned with justice and right living and right understanding. A Son who will be known as God, whose intimacy with God will be such that He is able to wear the name of the Everlasting Father. Whose royal rank is prince…the Prince of Peace. Shalom’s royal regent.