Friday, December 23, 2011

The Messiah Comes

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.  -- Isaiah 53:6  (Darby) 

The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is the quintessential chapter in the Bible that lays out what the anticipated Messiah is going to bring to humankind.  It is a chapter that has been around for thousands of years and embodies the very depth of traditional religious meaning for two religions - Judaism and Christianity.  Much of the chapter should ring familiar to anyone raised in either faith. 

Christians believe this Messianic person is coming in the person of Jesus Christ, whose birth we will be celebrating in just a few days.  The description of the Messiah's earthly work is fraught with suffering and pain.  Christmas is normally celebrated as the "Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas" holiday of fat Santa, the prancing and pawing of each little hoof, brown papered packages tied up with string, and the romantic cuddling under warm blankets since we've no place to go - let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.  This might be the romantic comedy side of Christmas.  It would be a shallow simpletons holiday, however, were it not for the Messiah's coming of Isaiah 53.  Isaiah 53 brings the divine tragedy to Christmas.  It is the grim reality that humanity has a dark side, lives in a society that is sprinkled with evil, misery, and death and that there comes a remedy to cure all of that, that gives the deep grace and light to Christmas such that its romantic comedic side can establish peace and prosperity to all. 

Without the reminder in Advent of the cross, to which is nailed our sins and our failings, and from the root of which comes our forgiveness and our very salvation all the shallow Christmas cheer of 10,000 Christmases would not be enough.   All the gifts Santa could bring off every list of every girl and boy could not match the Love that God infuses into the human story when Jesus takes the manger.  When the Angel Gabriel touches Mary and God incarnates into human life humanity transforms from vile banality to transcendent spiritual force that creates a people who walk by faith, hope, and love.   At Christmas Love came down.  He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, yet with his stripes we are healed.  Don't let the shopping malls near you drunken you with so much cheer that you forget the deeper, quieter, more serious reason we're celebrating! 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you gave yourself for us.  Help us to not trivialize your saving power by mistaking gift-giving and Christmas celebrations for why you came.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

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