Text: Isa 9:1-7 Preached at Werribee Church of Christ Christmas Day 2004
The Religious Liberty Prayer Letter of 15th December reports this:
On Sunday 12 December, two Protestant churches in Central Sulawesi, Eastern Indonesia, were attacked during evening worship. The Anugerah Church in Palu City was attacked by four men on two motorbikes who rode up to the church enabling their gunman to open fire from the road before they sped away. Windows were shattered, and two people in the back row were rushed to Undata Hospital with serious gunshot wounds. Minutes later a bomb exploded only 500m away at the entrance of Immanuel Church. A guard was seriously injured, and several worshippers were hospitalised suffering shock.
… [And in ]Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, … in an effort to safeguard Christians this Christmas, Surabaya’s police chief … will post police guards on all Surabaya’s 332 Christian churches.
All of that while we gather and worship and eat and exchange gifts in peace.
Light, joy, peace
The people of Israel in the time of the prophet Isaiah were at a point in their history where they would very soon know the anguish now being experienced by the Christians of Indonesia. And speaking into that Isaiah says yes, there will be anguish, sadness. You don’t escape that in this world. But the anguish will end when God steps in. And when that happens he says it’ll be as if someone just turned on the light; and the gloom and humiliation are gone .. and in their place is joy and victory.
And in v4 he says it’ll be like the day of Midian’s defeat. And he’s referring to the time of Gideon, a particular military engagement when God saved Israel from annihilation by a large army of Midianites, using a squad of just 300 men without a weapon being raised. (Jdg 7). .. Isaiah says, there’s a new day coming which will be like that .. God will end the anguish .. darkness .. gloom .. oppression .. and he’ll do it through a child .. Isaiah is looking forward to a day when it will be said: 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 shall be endless peace
Only God can fix the mess. Who but God could save a nation through an army of a few hundred without a weapon? .. Who but God could save the world through the birth of a child?
An impossible rescue, an unbelievable victory, a turn in world events no man or woman could imagine – much less bring about .. What power and what wisdom could pull off something like this? – A new government of endless peace, starting with a baby. .. Only The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. It can happen because God is passionate and determined to restore the world. He is heaven-bent on saving people who don’t deserve his favour and haven’t given him or his Son a second thought. .. A child is born for us, a son is given to us .. and he will rule the world through a peace that lasts for ever. .. There’s going to be a new government.
As you open surprising gifts today, may God surprise you oh so much more .. as you contemplate what this world could become under the rule of Christ, as God has planned. May you realise in a way that perhaps you haven’t before that he truly is in control of the seemingly uncontrollable journey of your life. “As on the day of Midian”, the prophet said .. “so on the day of Christ” .. On that day God stepped into your world and mine in a way that didn’t make sense, and to many still doesn’t.
But the day God arrived on our planet, he brought light to the world’s darkness, joy to the world’s pain, wisdom to the world’s confusion, power to the world’s weakness, fatherly care to the world’s abandoned, peace to the world’s strife .. all beginning with the birth of a child, a son, a king who was worshipped alike by local shepherds and foreign spiritual seekers, and whose reign of peace – unlike that of his great ancestor King David, unlike the Caesars of Rome, unlike Napoleon, unlike any President or dictator of our time – a king whose reign of peace will never come to an end.
Look back at the news of the world in 2004 .. Think of Iraq .. Darfur .. Indonesia .. Afghanistan .. Nth Korea .. The UN can’t bring about peace. The President of the US can’t command peace. The military muscle of several nations can’t make peace happen. But Jesus, the one whom today we declare was born a child for us .. he is the Prince of Peace … That’s the peace that can be yours today. It can transform your life, heal your broken relationships, bring you forgiveness for your sins – every one of them, turn a nation around .. it can do all of that and much much more .. provided it can first reign in your heart. And that can happen today, right now; if you will allow it .. if you will invite Jesus to form a new government over your life .. to be your source of wisdom .. to be your God of power .. to nurture you as no earthly father can .. to bring you Peace with God for ever by the blood he shed for you on the Cross.
Jesus can do all of that. That’s why there needed to be a child born for us .. that’s why God’s Son has been given to us. That’s why there’s Christmas. May yours be filled with light, joy and peace as you welcome him as your king today.