“Of.. peace there will be no end” Isaiah 9:6
At present, if you turn on the TV, if you enter a conversation, if you read online conversations and news articles, the one prevailing sense to be heard is division, hate and fear.
It does not matter what the specific issue is whether the Russia / Ukraine conflict, the Israel / Gaza conflict, climate change, inflation and economic challenges, cultural shifts in societies, break down in families, the list is never-ending and the cry ever louder.
Over a thousand killed by Hamas in Israel
Thousands killed by Israel in Gaza
Thousands killed in Ukraine by Russia
Russian speakers denied rights in Ukraine
Oppression in Iran
Hundreds of thousands killed in Syria, Ethiopia and Yemen.
I count Jews and Palestinians as friends, both believers and unbelievers, people who are hurting deeply now, deeply angry now.
I count Syrians, Iranians and Afghans as friends who have often experienced things I do not truly understand.
Yet despite all of this, something deeper shakes me, much of this is unfortunately entirely normal for humanity. The hyperbole in constant conversation and news hype is ‘there has never been a time like this!’ or a ‘conflict like this’. I understand the feeling, I tend to internally respond to matters I feel with hyperbolic response.
Unfortunately, this is simply not the case, what we are seeing and feeling is historically more common than not. That is not a justification but an unfortunate reality, something we need to come to grips with.
At the heart of all this is a heart issue, at its core these are ‘human issues’, an ‘everyone issue’.It is easier to say, this is not normal but it simply is.
People are rightly upset about innocents dying in the name of ‘insert just cause because someone treated us badly’.
In response to these disasters, true tragedies that often feel destined for new chapters of retribution and division, I see little evidence that political or economic matters can solve these. UN resolution this, or 'sanction that', ultimately come to nothing and we should not be surprised.
We should have our deepest concerns confirmed and for humans, it is confronting.
Humans can’t simply stop this because this conflict, death and justification is us. It comes from our very brokenness that no amount of acting can change.
Some try to outweigh their sin and guilty conscience with good deeds like giving away food makes you ‘not a thief’ or doing good deeds in special months makes your evil in other months disappear.
These are acts not of heaven but of self-centred justification, they end only in arrogance or depression.
I have tried activism, campaigning and placing trust in governments or authority to ‘do the right thing’, I have tried trusting myself to “be the change”, to “change your world”, yet all these things in themselves come up deeply short.
The understandable response from many is, then “Why doesn’t God do something!”Why doesn’t he stop the… (insert evil) happening, why doesn’t God stop evil!?! Without turning this into every connected issue, if he does, you won’t like it.
God’s judgement is fierce and his impartiality is such, that if only on our own merit, we will all be subject to it.
Nonetheless, he promises the day will come when he will and it will be a just day.
The reality is that God has done something, something birthed in an environment unsurprisingly not too dissimilar to now. Hope was born in the darkness
Amid empire and oppression, in the midst of violence and bloodshed, racial and social divisions, religious and political hypocrisy, poverty and hopelessness he birthed hope. Like today this hope was not one many wanted.
It confusingly did not remove the oppressor; it did not miraculously take away poverty or make others ‘not hypocrites’. At the time they were largely awaiting a political messiah who would make all their earthly concerns evaporate, a Messiah who would remove the Roman imperialists, who would restore their nation to them, a Messiah who would usher in a reign of peace and prosperity. Honestly, to some degree I get it. Yet hope was born, a hope that transcends circumstances, the politics of the day, the economics and the cultural divides.Jesus.
Hundreds of years prior to the coming of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah, a King that would bring freedom, a different kingdom, one without end. Isaiah spoke in a situation of darkness, rebellion and oppression. Hopelessness had gripped the nation, rebellion was the norm, and destruction was at their door in the nation of Assyria but it was not their circumstance that had ultimately displaced them but rather they had lost sight of God.
In this dark hopeless situation, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah,
“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.
7 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.”
God has done something. Jesus. The Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Four titles are used in this prophetic text that tell us why he alone is qualified to change all of this.
WONDERFUL COUNSELLOR – Do you need comfort, guidance, and peace?
MIGHTY GOD – Do you need to know his strength? His presence, his rule?
EVERLASTING FATHER – Do you need a perfect father that is always with you?
PRINCE OF PEACE – Do you need peace to rule in your life no matter the circumstance?
At the very heart of Christmas is not a law, nor a philosophy, it is a person.
At the very heart of LOVE that overcomes, is a person.
I want to get to unpacking each of these descriptions or titles but can I encourage you that God’s kingdom is not determined by the circumstances around us.
Our celebration of Jesus is not relative to the circumstance, it is not a declaration of hope because we are full of circumstantial hope but rather because even in the darkest hour, when all seems lost, all political, social and human religious ideals are failing, Jesus was born.
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel— which means, God with us.” Matt 1:18 – 23
HE IS EMMANUEL – God with us.