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. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the trampling warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. – Isaiah 9:2-7
The words of Isaiah are familiar parts of Advent. We hear them preached in church, we read them in our Daily Office, and we hear them on the radio and other media in the form of selections from Handel’s Messiah. This year it’s easier to understand the “…[P}eople who walked in darkness” because, despite sunlight and Christmas lights, the world seems so dark and fearful. Every day there are reports of more fighting, more shootings, more violence and it is so hard to try to meditate or try to practice peace with so many negative events and words flying around us.Isaiah brought words of comfort. The kingdom of David would be restored, and a great king would rise to rule with wisdom and power, vanquishing all enemies, bringing prosperity and justice. Every king in the Hebrew Bible was supposed to be this kind of king, but many fell short. This one would not; he would be directed by God and respond with godliness himself.
We still expect our leaders to be like the king of whom Isaiah spoke. We expect so much and we are so disappointed and, yes, sometimes so angry when our expectations are not met. So many things are done in our name and, yes, even in God’s name, that do not truly reflect the very things we claim to stand for. We proclaim “One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all” yet why is there need to have marches and protests and speeches calling attention to grave injustices in this same country? We need them because the voices of the prophets have not been heard, and the kings of industry and government have gone their own way.
We revere the Prince of Peace yet we so often do things contrary to his words and teachings. We looked for a messiah and yet chose to ignore him when he did not say or do things to suit us. We believe our Messiah has come, but we, like unfaithful stewards, have decided to look out for ourselves since the master is not here to keep an eye on us.
Perhaps it is time to do more than surface cleaning of houses, organizations, corporations, churches and governmental institutions. It is time for us to see a great light, and to walk in that light rather than darkness. The light is the light of the world for all people. This Advent, let us work to make it so.