Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, December 6, 2010

For unto us

Isaiah 9, is one of the most powerful presentations of the Good News available.  It tells us of God’s great act on our behalf.  The great thing God has done because of his love for all people.  But if you think about it, what we find here is a strange kind of announcement.  If we are talking “great acts of God” we might expect something, well, spectacular!  Amazing!  Powerful!  You know – thunder, lightening, rivers full of blood, cataclysmic events….That is not at all what we get….. what we get is, a baby!
A baby!!!  “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given”

What is important here is not so much that we have a baby.  Babies do grow up to be warriors, Kings,  Presidents.  What is important is this sentence is the word “given.”  This baby is a gift.  I like the way Martin Luther put it in a Christmas Sermon given sometime back in the 1500’s.  Commenting on our passage from Isaiah he wrote,  “This one is also given” to us. What does “given” mean? He is a [pure] gift, a present.  There is nothing I have to give or pay in return.  And now we have the gift . . . !  Consider these two words: “born” and “given.” A son, given; a child, born! 

We know of course that this passage refers to Jesus.  Jesus is the child, the son.  Jesus is what is given to us  -- the one who is born for us – that was made clear in our passage from Matthew.  And he is a gift.  We don’t’ have to earn him.  Deserve him.  Even ask for him…. He just is  -  a free gift. Given to us…..all we have to do is accept the gift!  So obviously the first question is whether we have accepted the gift.  Kind of seems like a no brainer…  I mean we don’t normally turn down gifts.

But it is still a valid question.  We can refuse the gift.  We can say “no thanks.”  Some people do.  But the more likely problem is that we can fail to see that the gift is a gift.  We can make it something we have to earn and deserve… and in doing so, fail, effectively reject it, because the bottom line is we can’t earn or deserve it.  Its there, but we don’t take it, open it, allow it to be ours.  

So here is the question for this morning… We have the gift… It is right here in our hands!  Wrapped, beautiful.  Imagine that!  But have we really said yes?  Are we ready to open the gift?
Are we willing to take that gift, rip off the wrapping, forget saving the paper, open it up… and with joy say “YES! Just what I needed?”  Or do we say…. “Oh God, you shouldn’t have… decide we are too sinful, to much a failure……… to accept what is offered?

Let say that we are really ready to say yes.  To just rejoice in the gift.  What does this gift, this baby, this “one” do?   In short, what difference does it make that this baby has come?

Lets look first at versus 3 & 4  “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.  For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.”

The baby shatters the yoke that burdens us.  We all have yokes  -- those things that bind us, burden us, hold us back, freeze us.  What’s your yoke? What is holding you back?  Christ will take that from you, shatter it, destroy it, and set you free

And then what?  Lets go back to Isaiah… look at how he pictures the impact of this child and the freedom it brings.  “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.”  These people aren’t just ‘happy’, they are ecstatic.  This is, “The Ducks are playing for the national Championship” joy.  I love the line about dividing the plunder.  I can’t help but think of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, where the Pirates are all singing ,and dancing and drinking, celebrating their victory… that’s what we have here!  God’s people gone wild!

But God doesn’t just free us from our pasts, God works to help us move forward into the future.  God brings us insight, vision, direction.  God orders our lives.  There are a number of sections that illustrate this reality.  We can look at the beginning… “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”  With God we know were to put our feet, so to speak. 

So what is the end result of all this?  We have a thing called  Peace.  Peace, what does it mean?  We probably think that primarily it means a time where there aren’t any wars, or a least any major ones… But in Hebrew peace, shalom, means fullness, means having every thing you need to be wholly yourself.

We can have peace - We can share peace… Why?
Because ‘To us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

And he is here
Right here, in each of us

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