Summary: Today, we’re beginning a new three part Christmas series on the first 7 verses of Isaiah 9. Over the next three messages, we will be looking at What the Light of Christmas Brings, Who the light of Christmas is, and What the light of Christmas Promises.
When the winds got up high this past week, I know that some of you lost power. Fortunately, it was during the daytime and it wasn’t too cold out. But even then, it’s not very much fun to lose power. I’ve told you that when Miranda and I were first married, we lived overseas. And in the Azores where we lived, the power went out all the time. In the winter time, there was hardly a day that went by where we didn’t lose power for at least a little bit. Sometimes it went out for hours at a time. Losing power isn’t fun, but when you lose it all the time, you kind of get used to it. It’s a whole different story when you’re used to having power every day and then you lose it. That’s the way it was when we lived in Mississippi. Believe it or not, Mississippi isn’t a third world country. The power down there is very reliable. It’s every bit as reliable as our power. Almost every time you turn on a light switch, the lights come on. Except when a hurricane hits. We were there when Hurricane Georges went through. Now, I’ve got to explain something to you. When you live on the Gulf Coast, you refer to anything less than a Category 4 hurricane as “only” or “just’. In other words, Hurricane Georges was “only” a Category 2. That makes it sound like no big deal. And compared to a Category 4, I’m sure it isn’t. But when you’re sitting in your house, with the windows boarded up. And you’re gathered around a candle and a battery-powered radio, this hillbilly thinks it’s a big deal. “Just” a Category 2 didn’t even enter my and Miranda’s vocabulary that night. We were extremely blessed that we didn’t have much damage from the storm. But one thing that happened was that the power was out for several days. And even though we had candles and hurricane lamps, nothing is darker than a moonless night when the power across the whole area is out. No street lights, no neighbors’ lights, no lights all across town. Just pitch black darkness. That’s the way the prophet Isaiah describes the people of Israel in the first two verses of our passage tonight. Even going back to the last verse of chapter 8, Isaiah describes the people as being in darkness and gloom. In 8:22, he says that the people shall, “behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, and they shall be driven to darkness.” And then in 9:1, he uses the words “dimness” and “vexation” again. The original word that’s translated “dimness” comes from the same root word as “darkness.” The prophet is describing a people whose power has gone out. They are in complete and total darkness. And being in total, complete darkness, they are in anguish and trouble and bondage and defeat. Of course, the prophet is referring to an event that was going to happen in the very near future. On one level he was talking about the time when Assyria was going to destroy Damascus and Samaria and carry the Northern tribes of Israel off into captivity. The Assyrians were nasty people and were known for abusing their captives and leading them off in chains. God’s chosen people were violently removed from the land that God had given them. It was indeed a dark time for the nation. But the physical captivity wasn’t the darkest part. The darkest part was the spiritual darkness that led to the physical captivity. That’s why Isaiah wrote what he did in verse 1. He said that their dimness (darkness, gloom) was not like it was during her vexation. He’s speaking in the past tense, but it’s what’s called the prophetic past. The prophet sees future events like they’ve already happened. But when he talks about Israel’s vexation, that was going to be the time when they were carried off into captivity. Definitely a dark time, but even that was not as gloomy as the dimness that he’s prophesying now. Back up in 8:32, remember what he said. He said “And they shall look unto the earth, and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, and they shall be driven to darkness.” Israel’s sin had driven them into the pits of spiritual darkness. They had taken all of the promises of God and wasted them. They had enjoyed all of God’s provision and blessing and turned right around and spit in His face. They spit in His face by worshipping the blessings God had given them instead of worshipping the God who blessed them. They practiced every form of idolatry and immorality you can imagine. It even got to the point where they sacrificed their children on the altar of personal progress and prosperity. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The political structure was in darkness because the Assyrians had defeated them. But there was a far greater darkness in the land. And that was the personal darkness that came from the people walking in darkness. Do you think that there is darkness in our country tonight? Our economy is in shambles. Unemployment is continuing to go through the roof with no end in sight. We have enemy terrorists imbedded in our military just waiting for an opportunity to kill our soldiers like the one at Fort Hood did a few weeks ago. We are opposed on every side in the world. Europe doesn’t like us. Asia doesn’t like us. Even our own continent doesn’t like us very well. There is tremendous darkness for our nation tonight. But there is a darkness that is even blacker than all of that. We are a nation that has been richly blessed beyond all imagination. God has prospered us far beyond any nation in history. And what have we done with it? We have turned God’s blessings into idols and bowed down at their feet. Our economy has become an idol. Our military strength has become an idol. Our prosperity has become an idol. Our education system has become an idol. Our entertainment and recreation has become an idol. And probably more than all of those, the American Dream itself has become an idol. Just like with ancient Israel, things for the nation look pretty dark. But the darkness in the nation is nothing in comparison to the spiritual darkness in the land. Everywhere you look, people are walking in spiritual darkness. Immorality, idolatry, lust, greed, selfishness, pride, gluttony, laziness, disobedience and disrespect to all authority including parents, abuse, murder, drugs and drunkenness. Make no mistake about it—people all around us are walking in spiritual darkness. But there is a light—a glorious light. And the rest of this passage we’re looking at this month talks about that great and wonderful light. That light is the Light we celebrate every year at Christmas. That light is the Light that John wrote about in John 1:9. He wrote, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Of course, that light is Jesus. Over the next few minutes, I want us to see what that Light brings. As Isaiah prophesied about these people who were walking in such a terrible darkness… he told them that a Light was coming. And tonight we’re going to look at three things that the Light of Christmas brings. The first thing is joy. Look back at verse 3: