Isaiah 9: 2-7
This passage is one that is familiar to us at this time of year. We hear it read year after year and whilst it is a familiar set of words, it’s poetry can sometimes be confusing.
We don’t include the first verse in our readings but this sets up the whole passage. To summarise: The prophet Isaiah is telling the people that it is not too late, the people are being given another chance from God to turn away from the sins of their past, and the sins that they see around them in their neighbours. They have an opportunity to step out of the lives that they are leading in darkness and into the light where they will be redeemed and given a new opportunity.
Seasonally, this text lies at the ideal time. As we have passed the Winter solstice in this last week, we will slowly start to head towards the light, in a few weeks we will start to see the effects of this. There is a lot of symbolism here, but the main point is clear, if you are living in any darkness, there is hope. That is the good news we find hidden here. Even if you can’t see it immediately, the light is coming.
We hear of hope. In the first section, the hope is described and then in the second, the pattern is repeated as we hear the hope explained. We hear about what the Lord does, what the Lord’s people enjoy and then finally we hear about what will follow. This pattern is repeated twice and in the second part we start to identify that the hope explained is what we believe to be the birth of Jesus. The list of names is a significant portion too, there is importance in these names.
‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’
These are more than just names, they tell those who listen something about the character of the one who will bear them. They describe his heritage, his royal lineage, his human form. They also make declarations about the work he will carry out while here on Earth.
This poetry is hopeful, it is powerful, it tells us that the prophet Isaiah was saying “look around, everything might seem like a disaster but do not worry, this isn’t the end of the story”. It isn’t the end of the story today either. Jesus was born as a baby, he came and lived among us. He brought light into the darkness.
At Christmas we are reminded again that Jesus brings a light that will continue to shine in our lives as long as we let it, both at Christmas time and beyond.
Rev’d Peter Reiss