Sermon: Christmas Eve 2020

Isaiah 9:2-7

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors 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.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For 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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

It feels like our nation and in some ways the whole world is at a crossroad. Issues for how we live as a nation and how nations relate to each other have been brought to the surface to see in this disrupted and difficult year of 2020. Choices are being made in all spheres of life. We will either continue on our way or we will take another way.

This is new territory for people under sixty or so. For a large portion of the population, this pandemic year with all of its international tensions that are now directly affecting even us Aussies, is new.

We have seen racial unrest on an international scale, the beginnings of signs of dominance of the world’s emerging superpower that are pitted against even the people who live Downunder. We have seen political turmoil shaking the world’s remaining superpower to its core. We have seen and are seeing hundreds of thousands of people dying as a result of one virus.

Isaiah speaks. He speaks into this kind of place.

The nation of his day was at a major crossroad. The country had already experienced civil war and split into two separate kingdoms before this. In the 8th Century BC, the powerful and brutal Assyrians had been taking pot shots at the northern kingdom. Eventually they wiped it out. The little southern kingdom was now under more threat than just a trade war. God’s people were now a puppet state paying huge money to a brutal and powerful neighbour nation.  Businesses destroyed. Freedoms restricted severely, the system completely corrupt, working the farm and giving away the most of the income from your hard work to corrupt and violent officials.

Isaiah puts it graphically. God’s people are like a big cow with a heavy wooden bar tied on its shoulders being mercilessly and relentlessly driven around in a circle to draw the water from the well or crush the grapes in the press of the barley in the mill.

This year, we have felt so me kind of bar on our shoulders. We have had our ability to make our own future severely challenged. We have been overrun by an invisible killer. We have experienced an oppressive isolation to varying extent. We have felt a feisty challenge from a neighbouring country.

Can we hear these words as God speaking into our lives in this moment?

The words of God break the gloom, disrupt the worry and bring a hint of longed for peace. They are real Christmas words.

Isaiah speaks of a whole other story going on; a whole other movement; a whole other reality right there in the midst of the people in their struggle – if only they hear it and trust the One who creates it.

A child in the night. A new life in troubled lives. A hopeful moment in the sense of hopelessness. A joyous time right in the joyless time. A baby will be born and bring in a new kingdom, a new state, a new life, a new people.

This child is no ordinary human. This child is a human alright, but also divine presence and authority.

He will not wear that heavy bar of hopelessness, despair, fear, shape, guilt, anger, hatred, injustice on his shoulders like we do. He will wear the mark of authority over all of these destructive things on his shoulders. “The government’ of life will be what he has on his shoulders.

What’s his name?

….. he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Big names for a big God to a struggling people. There is hope coming to Christmas table.

The boy is royalty. The boy will be royalty with divine backing. He will never have to pay any dues to any human or earth-bound invader. He will never have to take a bribe to survive or play politics to keep power. He will be never have to strive to be a superpower crushing others as they make it to the top because he just is at the top – all the time. He is THE super-power over all powers.

This child is this because his authority does not come from himself, but from the God of all creation who has sent him to the people.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign….,
establishing and upholding his world
with justice and righteousness…

This boy’s rule and the people whom he rules will never end. No foreign power, no foreign virus, no trade war or real war or silent war will ever defeat this new prince and the peace he brings will be unbreakable, unstoppable.

Why can you trust his presence and his plan? Because;

The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

The God of all creation is the power behind this throne. His holiness, glory, justice and mercy are the foundations of this kingdom’s life.

Here we are. Christmas Eve at the crossroad of world change. It is a moment to trust. With whom will you move into 2021? Who will you trust for hope and future love and life?

Isaiah calls. God’s people around him mostly did not listen or trust this news of a new boy and new community, new hope and a new life for a new future.

They chose all the things we see on the news at night – politics, power, science, technology, family, friends, business, money, beauty, fashion, big government and etc as their point of trust way more than this word of God.

At our crossroads, will we be any different? At your crossroad, will you be any different?

But Isaiah cries out with everything he has tonight:

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

And then the angels start singing;

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)

The Apostle’s speak;

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.     (Titus 2:11)

Friend, our hope as a nation, a western democracy, a family, a community, a human person is in this boy of good news.

He is the only one who can truly bring the peace for which we long, the love for which we strive, the justice for which we yearn, the underserved favour and blessing which makes us truly and fully alive.

He is the one who enlarges our hearts and our nation’s heart.

He is the one who increases joy within the human heart no matter the miles or the money or the muck

He is the harvest time worker’s release

The warrior’s moment of victory over fear and darkness and shame – now defeated and freedom and light and hoe renewed.

He shatters the things that burden you; lifts off the pain that surrounds you.

Trust the boy into 2021.

Place all other loves and trusting of things and people and self way down and enthrone him at the top.

And sing……

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the this boy, for he comes,
he comes to fulfill his promises of his faithfulness again. (Psalm 96:11-13)

The baby boy of the cross calls to you:

Receive joy increasing, peaceful heart beating, burden bar lifting and new hope breaking tonight.