Unto Us - December 25, 2016

Isaiah 9:2-3, 6-7
Luke 2:6-7

The first passage for this morning, comes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. God's people were having trouble. If you're unfamiliar with the background, Abraham had a son Isaac, who had a son Jacob. Jacob was later renamed Israel and had 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes of Israel. When they got to the promised land, each son and his tribe got an area of his own. They were eventually divided into two main parts, Israel in the North and Judah in the South.. The problem for the people in the book of Isaiah was that the north and the south were at odds with each other. In essence they were at war. It was about 730 BC. The people were stuck in

darkness. They were oppressed by Assyria and felt like they were cursed. They felt like there was no hope.

There was political discord and tensions between the people of God. And in the midst of their struggle, God sent the prophet Isaiah. Now, prophets aren't fortune tellers or future predictors. They are truth tellers. They speak truth to power. And they speak truth to God's people. Throughout the Old Testament prophets hail God's people and say

"Hey, you're off course. God wants you over here. I know you like it over there—but if you keep going that way you're going to regret it. There's only bad news waiting if you stay on that road. So come over here, back to God's path. Look, I know it looks good over there, but looks can be deceiving. Listen, God has not forgotten or forsaken you. God will redeem you and you'll party like you've just won the lottery! You'll love it. You're looking all over the land for a leader—someone to follow, who can help you and protect you in a time of war. That's normal. Of course you want those things, but don't look to them. Look to God. God will give you a leader."

Now, when Isaiah spoke these words, he wasn't thinking of Jesus and definitely wasn't thinking of waiting over 700 years for God to send someone. The word was meant as a word of hope to the people then in 732, a long time before Jesus. Even though it wasn't about Jesus at the time—it still relates to him. You see the political unrest and hardship weren't isolated to the 8th Century before Christ. There wasn't just division among the Israelite's under king Ahaz or when Assyria was in power. Political division and strife were a common theme that translated through the centuries. So in the 1st century when Israel was subjected to Roman rule—they again felt like they were in darkness and in need of saving. They were desperate for someone to lead them, protect them, and free them from Rome. And hope would be found not in one of them—a promising leader from another nation—but in him—in God's chosen one.

And isn't it funny—ironic really, that 2000 years later we're still bound by political divisions and looking all over for someone to do the job of restoring us and fixing the politics? Only, if we lean on the words of the prophet, we'll be reminded that the answer, our hope, is not to be found in one of theirs, it is to be found in one of God's.
The fact of the matter is people and countries will always be clamoring for a leader to save them-and our great error is to look for earthly solutions. Instead we are invited to look to the one sent from above as our leader and savior.
As God often does, God provides the unpredictable and unexpected. So we find a baby lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. One who would heal, save, and redeem the people in very necessary but unexpected ways. He didn't fix the government per say, but he challenged it to be one of mercy and divine justice—not vengeance and retribution.

He holds power, but not power over—instead, power with.

He topples the proud—not with a sword but with humility and grace.

When things get hard—politically or professionally or personally—we are challenged not to look out there—to them—to save us—but here (to the cross and the altar) to Him to save us.

Today we come to celebrate the Christ child. We may want to focus on the beautiful or the serene...and that's good...it shows our heart desires the things of God. And in desiring the things of God we will be enriched by God's blessings...offering us a leader and a savior...not with power and might, but with gentleness, humility, and the dependency of a child. God is present in the midst of the mess, in the midst of the wars, the arguments and the daily battles in our homes and our communities. And God sends a savior....not one who will conquer and rule like we might hope, but one who has come to be the leader and savior for all...Jesus Christ, the child born of Mary and Joseph in the small town of Bethlehem.


First Coming

By Madeleine L'Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.


He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait


till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.


He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.


We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!