Saturday, December 24, 2016

Let It Be This Year

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government shall be upon his shoulders.  He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  -- Isaiah 9:6
For almost 3,000 years this passage has been a part of holy scripture.  When it was written, the Assyrians were knocking on Israel's and Judah's doors.  Isaiah was warning them that their wicked ways of mistreating the poor, kicking around the oppressed, and reveling in their extravagant, supposed God-favored-ness was coming to a screeching halt. With the Advent of Christ, a new spin was placed on the meaning.  Suddenly, all Old Testament (Hebrew scripture) was turned into a Christian realized moment.  The Jewish faith had goofed up, but the Christians got it!  Our special-ness by self acclamation made Christians better. This served it's theological purposes in their time.  Today, in attempting to be more sensitive and accurate in our scriptural interpretation we can see both strands and discern (perhaps) better meanings.

The four names Isaiah supplies were probably his favorite names for the Messiah.  Social order was in a downward spiral.  It is obvious from the surrounding text that soldiers and military occupation were common place realities.  Hope was slipping through their fingers.  The word translated as "government" here is a word that in both Hebrew and Greek is only used one time, here in this passage.  The believed meaning of this particular word referred to a more spiritualized ruling authority, rather than secular.  The verb tenses are all future, as they are for us today.

Two thousand years of Christendom places us in a much more "old religion" frame of mind, with the same gathered baggage, self-righteous assumptions, established religion, and arrogant certainties about belief as those ancient Jews had in 760 BCE.  We may not believe that God rains down wrath for our misdeeds, but our misdeeds and self-serving calculations are just as much at the ready to send us down wrong forks in the road. Little has changed on the human world stage.  Country is still at the throats of other countries.  The oppressed are still being oppressed.  The poor are still with us.  We're still building war machines; swords are still swords; the aim is still dominating others in order to feel "great again."  We are just as much in need of this child, this Messiah, today as humanity has ever needed.

Perhaps the question we need to be pondering in our hearts this Christmas is how long?  How many times must we hear this Christmas message before we give up our DIY projects at a human-constructed world order that serves only me and my kind best?  How long are we going to fear the other, feel threatened, lash out, and compete violently to get our share of everything far more than we need?  Why does the Christmas message only ring partway true for only 24 hours out of a year?

This year, please let it be this year, that we'll take into all our hearts the leading of a child.  Perhaps the child can be from Aleppo, or from the back seat of a car that serves as someone's home, or from the Sudan, or ??  Our God can come to us from so many different places.  Which one will you open your heart to?  Which will cause you to embrace our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace?  When will you feel the Touch of Divine Love and surrender all your fears, worries, and head-strong beliefs, and just step forward in naked trusting faith? Let it be this year, O God, our long-suffering One who waits for us to return home.

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