A Simple Promise

I preached this sermon during the second Sunday of Advent.  I started off by talking about a rough week, but was vague about details, because they weren’t really my details to share at the time.  Looking back, I can see where God was at work and how the light truly did shine in the midst of the darkness.  My family is almost on the other side of the particularly journey we started back in December and as the days get longer and the sun shines longer, I am reminded once again just how true this promise it.

Enjoy …

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
December 9, 2018

Isaiah 9:1-7

A Simple Promise

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

I have to be honest; my family and I had kind of a tough week.  And I don’t mean to be vague, but they are also not my stories to tell, so I am not really going to get into it; however, I offer that as sort of a disclaimer that we kind of walked through that darkness this week.  We needed to be reassured of that promise that light would shine.

My sister said to me at one point, “Oh, it’s Christmas, it’s supposed to be a joyful season,” and I thought, yes, but isn’t this why we needed Christmas in the first place?  It is because of our brokenness that we needed God to come into our midst and make us whole again.  It is because our world was and is imperfect and flawed and heartbreaking at times that we needed and still need a Gospel that is full of light and love and grace.  It is because we are human that we needed God to come into our midst, to experience our world in the most vulnerable and precious way.

That is the amazing part about the Christmas story, thought.  Over the years we have sort trained ourselves to think it is all about lights and cheer and fun traditions and Starbucks holiday cups, but it started with a promise.

A promise that even in the darkest moments of our lives, light would still shine.

If you did not know that this morning’s scripture reading was from the Book of Isaiah, you would probably think that it was part of Jesus’ birth narrative, right?

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But these words were written long before Jesus entered this world; before Mary and Joseph made the 80 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, before an innkeeper welcomed these weary travelers into his home, before the angels heralded Christ’s arrival, before the shepherds ran to see for themselves what had happened and before the wise men followed a star to bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Book of Isaiah is dated as far back as the late 8thcentury BCE.  It is thought to have been composed primarily during the Babylonian Exile, which lasted about 70 years, beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem.  The darkness that the prophet refers to in this book is not a metaphorical darkness, but a real and hard and desperate and human darkness. Jerusalem had been destroyed; people were displaced and being held captive in a foreign land.  They were separated from their families and familiar surroundings; their safety and security was gone.

And yet, there was this promise.

A promise that even in the darkest moments of their lives, light would still shine.

A promise that they would rejoice in the same way that they would if they were experiencing the joy of a great harvest.

A promise that their burdens would be lifted from them; that they would be freed from the heavy weight of their oppressors.

A promise that the warriors fighting against them would be destroyed.

A promise that a child of Messianic Hope would be born; that he would bring with him the hope of eternal life.

As people living on this side of the resurrection, we know that this promise has been fulfilled.  We know, not only how the Christmas story ends, but also how the Easter story ends.  We know that the exile did come to an end; that light did shine as the Jews were released from captivity and Jerusalem started to rebuild.  We know that, 600 years later, against all odds, a child was born to a virgin named Mary and delivered safely into this broken and imperfect world under the light of a star that led wise men there so they could pay him homage.  We know that this child grew up and lived in this world and, despite its brokenness and its imperfection, held fast to a law of love and a Gospel of peace.  We know that while he was put to death, on the third day after he died, as the morning light began to shine over the tomb where they had laid his body, they realized that the tomb was empty; that death, in fact, did not – and does not – have the final word, that resurrection is real and that grace is more powerful than we can ever comprehend.

And this all came from a simple promise.

A promise that even in the darkest moments of our lives, light will still shine.

I know it has not been an easy year for a lot of you.  I know that right now, a lot of you are feeling as though you are living in this land of deep darkness.  I know that people are grieving, frustrated, scared, stressed and feeling uncertain.  And I want you to know that somehow – someway – this promise will be fulfilled.  Light will shine.

I was with my sister this week and we were in the car and O Holy Night came on and those words, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,” echoed through me as I thought about this passage from Isaiah and what it means to be a weary world waiting desperately for that thrill of hope.

I think in different ways we are all kind of waiting right now.

And it is coming; I promise.  That promise has been fulfilled before – and it will be again.

Christmas is hard for a lot of people because the world is kind of mandating this joy that you cannot really escape from.  We even kind of mandate it at church – I figured out how to light the wreaths on the walls, for goodness’ sake!

But remember the magic of the Christmas season doesn’t come from twinkly lights or peppermint mochas or matching pajamas (even though I love all of those things).  The magic of the Christmas season comes from that promise that even in the darkest moments of our lives, light will always shine.

And that is the kind of magic I think we all need.

So wherever you are on your journey through life right now – wherever you find yourself this Christmas season – believe in this promise.  Believe that light will shine, that you will feel joy and that the weight of your burdens will be lifted.  Believe that God will break forth into this world – into this broken and imperfect, but also beautiful and grace-filled world – and meet us where we are.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

Let that light shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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