New Growth: Isaiah

New Growth: Isaiah

Bible Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7

As we moved through Advent Season we are this Sunday we are exploring how anticipation and hope (and also songs and music) can help us capture the Spirit of Christmas (which is Jesus). Our text from Isaiah 9 talked about how the Hebrew people hoping for a saviour “those living in a land of darkness a new light has dawned”. What are we hoping for or anticipating this year as we move closer towards Christmas. Are we hoping to experience the Spirit of Christmas this year? Let’s open ourselves to the Spirit moving and allow it to touch our souls … for unto us a child is born! A wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

Promises, Promises, Promises.

When you hear the word promises – what does it stir up within you?

Some of you – the word promises might remind you of times when people made promises to you that have been fulfilled.  Like you parents promising you something special for Christmas and on Christmas Day you open your presents to discover that your parents promise was true.  Or for me it is the promises that Marion and I made to each other on our wedding day to love each other and be there for each other … and how those promises are lived out each day.

But maybe the word promises might trigger some bad memories – of broken promises.  Of times that people have made commitments or said that they would do something … and the pain when that trust or hope was not fulfilled.

Broken promises can make us jaded or sceptical of promises.  Like if a politician makes a promises … do we really think that they will keep it?

Let’s travel back to the Old Testament one last time (we have been doing it for almost three months and from next week we are in the New Testament).  Travelling back to about 600 BCE.  The Northern Kingdom have been defeated by Assyria and the South Kingdom has the Babylonians breathing down their necks.  As Kevin talked about last week – this is a dark time in Hebrew history.  And all the promises that people had been saying about “things will be ok” seem very empty.  Things are not ok.

And into this bleakness, Isaiah shares a promise from God…

The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

God is doing a new thing! (We talked about that a few weeks ago … the green shoots.)  God has not given up on us.  Yes, things might be dark at the moment but there is a light coming.

Coming … is the light coming?  Is this a promise that we can believe in … or is it like the promise of a politician – it sounds good but rarely becomes reality?

Ok – I just have to do an aside here for one moment and declare that YES – this is a promise we can believe in.  And God/Isaiah wanting to make sure that we know it will come true has written this not a future tense but in a present tense.

The verse does NOT say – The people walking in darkness WILL see a great light … it says – The people walking in darkness HAVE seen a great light.  On those living in the land of deep darkness a light HAS dawned.  This promise of the saviour … is one that will be kept because it is already happening.

And for those people in Isaiah’s time – this was a promise that stirred the emotions.  In the midst of a dark and difficult time … the Hebrew people were feeling … HOPE.  A light was dawning and hope was stirring.  God is at work.

As we move through this Advent season this year, I wonder if our hearts are being stirred.  Are we being caught up in the wonder and anticipation of the coming Christmas?

This year at TUC we have a theme for Advent / Christmas that the young people who are working on Christmas Eve have chosen.  The theme is “The Spirit of Christmas” – how we all might experience the Spirit of Christmas that God is stirring this Christmas.

The Christmas Eve play/musical this year is loosely based on an idea from the movie Elf.  If this movie, Buddy the Elf is trying to help people capture the Spirit of Christmas and in the movie Buddy thinks that he spirit of Christmas can be found through singing.   “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”. 

Actually in the Christmas Play I think that we are going to discover that the Spirit of Christmas can actually be found in Jesus … but Buddy is not completely wrong in what he is suggesting.  There is something about Christmas music that can stir our emotions, that can help us connect deeply with the Spirit of Christmas.  Would you agree?

Music and songs are amazing in the way that can tap into a deep part of our emotions or our … souls.  Music can make us emotional or can trigger memories or can help us to connect with God.  That is why we sing hymns in church.  And Christmas music is super powerful.

Just by hearing a Christmas Song or Carol we might be transported back to a time in our childhood and be overcome with nostalgia – remembering the magic of childhood Christmas.  Or hearing a few notes of a melody can trigger memories that make me smile.

Do you have Christmas songs that do that for you?

I have two that always bring me wonderful memories.  For the past 20 years I have asked that the final song at the Christmas Eve service is Silent Night … and every time I hear that song I have tears that well up as I remember those beautiful moments of being with my church family on Christmas Eve … celebrating the magic of Christmas Eve and singing about Jesus our new born saviour.  Or O Come all ye faithful is always associated with the joy and buzz of Christmas morning.

But it is not just the music.  Sometimes the words can hit deeply and stir emotions.  I have talked about this before, but O Holy Night has some of the most stirring and profound Christmas words in any Christmas Song…

The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees – Oh, hear the angel voices

Oh, night divine – Oh, night when Christ was born 

When Jesus comes to us in Emmanuel, our souls find its worth.  Wow.  Are your emotions being stirred?  Are you sensing the Spirit of Christmas moving in these songs?

Well coming back to our bible reading … the Hebrew people felt it too.  God was at work and their HOPE was being stirred.

After all the violence and war and threats of war … could they find peace … could they live in a time of peace???

The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned.

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.

Wow – what a promise. 

But is it a promise that we can believe in?

YES – because

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this.

This morning, to all of us gathered here, God is giving us a promise too.  To us a child has been born, to us, a son is given.  And if we open ourselves this Advent, if we allow our hearts to be stirred and come to the manger this Christmas, we too will receive anew this amazing of Jesus – the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We are going to symbolise this with Communion.