November 21, 2021
Christ the King
Isaiah 9: 1-9
Last Sunday, we heard about the prophet Amos.
Amos … a working person’s prophet, you’ll recall … was upset because the people had become complacent in their worship life.
Worship should have led people to live into their faith and work for justice for the vulnerable and less-fortunate … but instead the people were just going through the motions with a façade of piety.
Today, we jump ahead 50 years and move to the south as we hear from the prophet Isaiah in Jerusalem. And it looks like Amos’ pleas fell on deaf ears.
It’s a dark time in the region.
The Northern Kingdom has been conquered by the Assyrians. Over the years since Amos served in the Northern Kingdom, warfare and violence have become part of life for the people.
The peace that was achieved through trade agreements and political arrangements during Amos’ time was not a lasting peace. Now, the people’s idol worship and human pride have led them to the brink of losing everything.
People are fleeing the violence and heading into Judea … others have been carried away into exile. There’s anxiety, fear and uncertainty in the air.
Today’s reading is part of a hymn intended for the inauguration of a king. This future king would not be like the kings who fought over territory and wealth.
This long-awaited and long-promised perfect king would guide … would shepherd … the people.
This king will be a markedly different type of leader than the kings who have ruled over the years.
During a dark, dismal time … Isaiah offers a message of hope and light.
Isaiah’s hymn tells of the freedom that the people will experience … the yoke of oppression will be lifted … the rod that was used to beat them into submission would be broken … and their hearts would be unchained.
Justice and righteousness would mark life in the world after this king arrives and brings light into the darkened world.
This light will arrive … not at the end of the sword or with another conquering army … but as a baby.
God will break into the world in an unexpected way … in the most vulnerable form imaginable.
This reading is often read as part of Christmas services because of its relationship to the birth in Bethlehem. It is a reading that comes at the conclusion of a period of anticipation … of waiting.
For those who have taken part in past Christmas Eve services at LCOS, the words should sound familiar.
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.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
And there will be endless peace,
… there will be endless peace.
For people used to seemingly endless violence, the prospect of endless peace carries a measure of hope for the future.
Just imagine how this would sound to people who have known only oppression and misery. Imagine how this would sound to someone who has lived in a time of uncertainty … of fear and anxiety. Imagine the hope it offers.
Imagine how it sounds to people now.
The peace that Isaiah writes of isn’t just the absence of violence, but rather the absence of inner conflicts, as well.
In Hebrew, the word peace is shalom.
In its truest sense, in the Jewish tradition, Shalom means a different kind of peace. It is a peace where the heart is untroubled and unburdened.
It is a peace that comes when everything is in balance … when there are no barriers … when your heart is open … when there are no hindrances to loving those around you.
It’s a peace where there is a lightness within you. You are able to view things differently … your priorities shift … the light brings others into view.
Whether your life feels dark as night or has moments of darkness, we all want to find more light in our lives.
Today’s text shows us one of those moments when God invites us to walk out of darkness and discouragement.
Isaiah’s passage offers opposition to the despair and cynicism that can inhabit and infect our lives. In it, the prophet refuses to allow darkness to be the final word … that there must be something more … and Isaiah offers hope-filled anticipation of what it is.
Next Sunday, we enter into the season of Advent … a period of anticipation … when we await Jesus coming into the life of the world.
Advent is a time of twilight … when the darkness begins to fade as the light sits just over the horizon. Advent is an in-between time.
It’s when we wait for the light to appear in the darkness of the world … when we carry the hope that the weight borne by our hearts will be lifted … and when we carry faith that grace will fill the world and shine light into the darkest of corners.
It’s not a stretch to say we’ve been in our own period of darkness … the pandemic has been a conflict of sorts. Now, as the waves crest and fall away … we are in an in-between time.
It has isolated people … severed connections … it has darkened our lives in ways we never would have imagined. Yet, God’s hope-filled presence was there … always calling us forward.
In John’s gospel we heard Jesus share the key for embracing the light … just believe … have faith in God … and grace upon grace will bring new life.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
That is what enables us to exit the in-between time and fully enter the light-filled … the grace-filled … life of hope, peace, joy and love.
Shalom and AMEN