Summary: This is an advent sermon.
When I was a kid, we used to play this game. When someone was wearing a stocking hat, we would run up to them and say, “Where was Mickey Mouse when the lights went out?” When the other person said, “I don’t know,” we would pull their stocking hat over their eyes and say, “In the dark!” The idea, no matter how childish, was to get the person stumbling around and confused, so everyone could have a good laugh. The problem is that it never worked, but like most kids, we kept doing it, hoping that some day it would work.
Have you ever been in a position where you were in the dark, either in reality or in a figurative sense? I remember, as a kid, being at a relative’s house and waking up in the middle of the night and not quite being sure where everything was. I would squint my eyes to try to see where I was. Sometimes I would wake up and forget where I was. I got that thing where you ask, “Where am I?” I would kind of stumble around. That is a scary feeling especially when you are young.
Darkness brings with it a sense of fear and despair. Last spring, we were out to eat breakfast on Saturday morning. It was a cloudy rainy day, but it was daylight. The restaurant lost power, and Joey quickly tried to climb out of the high chair into mommy’s arms. We lack the security we have during daylight when it is dark.
Darkness is also a feeling of despair, not necessarily associated with the lack of physical light. I think of the house-church movement in Communist China. People risk their lives and live in fear just to go to church. There is darkness in that nation. But at the same time, a great light is dawning in China. Recent surveys have calculated that there are now more Christians in China than there were over 50 years ago when the Communists took over.
I also remember, from my childhood, that is was a great relief when the Sun would come up when I was in an unfamiliar place. There is something very comforting about light piercing the darkness.
Turn with me to Isaiah 9.
Read Isaiah 9:1-7.
When Isaiah wrote this Israel was experiencing a time of great darkness. They were surrounded by hostile powers that were salivating at the prospect of conquering their land. There was a region in the northern part of Israel especially under the veil of darkness. The area that was under the veil of darkness would later be referred to as Galilee. Verse 2 says that the people in darkness have seen a great light. The darkness would be pierced with blazing light of the dawn.
Verse 3 says that there will be great rejoicing at the appearance of the light.
The next 3 verses outline the reason for the rejoicing. Verse 4 says that the burden of darkness would be lifted. The burden of sin would be lifted.
Verse 5 says that the clothes of war would be fuel for the fire. There would be no more strife.
Verse 6 says that a child is born. This Child will carry the government on his shoulders.
I want to focus in on the four names given to the Child. They truly are beautiful names that are rich and full of meaning.
The first name is Wonderful Counselor.
This is one title, contrary to Handel’s Messiah. You will notice that there is symmetry with the four names. This is one title.
A reading of recent history books will show that recent presidents have had numerous counselors. They have a chief-of-staff, special counsel, press secretary, spokesman, and numerous other people who counsel them. A quick look at the Reagan administration will point this out. There are no less than half a dozen books written about the Reagan administration by former aides and advisors. The Nixon administration had at least as many. It is clear that the President of the United States consults various experts in matters where critical decisions are necessary. We often talk about the President bearing the burden of the office. Even with the best and brightest advisors and counselors, the office of the President takes a toll on the person serving. Just about every president in recent memory has looked like they 20 years while in office. The burdens of leadership and government are stressful, and it shows on the faces of the leaders.
This name of the Child indicates that he will need no counselor or advisors. The government will be on his shoulders, but he will not need the advice of anyone. This is someone who is wise beyond imagination. There are very few leaders, and no successful ones that do not have good counselors or advisors. Even the most power hungry individuals are surrounded by a group of trusted advisors.