"Christmas Peace In A Time of Pandemic and Pandemonium" A Reflection on Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 & Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-9
July 23, 2020, 2:19 PM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passages from Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 & Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-9 (New Revised Standard Version).

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7:

2 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.

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 11:1-4a, 6-9

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

It is good that we are focusing on Advent and Christmas scriptures in the middle of the heat of the Summer, in the middle of a long, drawn out period of pandemic waiting, and in the middle of the pandemonium of peaceful protests turned into riotous destruction.  And so, the theme of this Sunday’s Worship Service is “Christmas in July,” and we are reflecting on what Christ’s peace may look like for us as we continue to live through COVID-19 and the upheaval of social unrest and change.

I thought our Board of Worship Ministries had a novel and original idea of celebrating Christmas in Summer until I noticed the TV advertisements hawking “Christmas in July Sales” and even Christmas in July on Pray.com.

What could the peace of Christmas mean for us as we wait for a safe COVID-19 vaccine, as we wait for our children and youth to return to their schools, as we wait for God’s peace to unfold in ways that are righteous, just, and equitable?

I am particularly drawn to our readings from Isaiah, Chapters 9 and 11.  Both of these chapters focus on a child of peace being born and the inaugurating of God’s reign of “endless peace” (Isaiah 9:7a) upheld “with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7b).  Certainly, if we are to experience peace in this time of pandemic and upheaval, it shall have to come from God, which means that all of God’s children will have to pray that God will use them as instruments, as channels of God’s peace.  Therefore, Christmas peace begins with prayer and then celebrates the gifts of righteousness (right ways of living that treat others the way we want to be treated, that long for the same advantages for others that so many of us enjoy on a daily basis) and equity for the poor and the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11:4a).

Perhaps that longing for righteousness, justice, and equity for all God’s children is the light that shines in the darkness of our current time of pandemic and pandemonium.

And what are the qualities of that great light that shines in the deep darkness, of that child born for us, of that son given to us?  According to Isaiah, his qualities are contained within his names: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b).  While we Christ-followers would read into Isaiah and interpret the “great light”, the child born for us, and the son given to us to be Jesus of Nazareth, our Christ, some of our Jewish sisters and brothers would see this child and son as a coming messiah who is essentially a human ruler who will reign in this world and bring peace; others would interpret the coming of a messianic age of peace in which God’s righteousness and justice will flourish for everyone on earth.

The historical context for Isaiah, Chapters 9 and 11 reflects the encroachment of the Syrian and Assyrian empires (732-715 B.C.E.), the empires from whom Israel sought deliverance.  However, God uses these empires to call Israel back to faithfulness and promises that Israel will see the Messiah arising from the line of King David (“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,” David’s father), one whom the nations shall seek and whose dwelling will be glorious.  This is pictured with all the animals lying down and grazing together in peace and a child in the midst of them.

For Christians, the “great light” who was coming into the world, the child born for us, the son given to lead us into all truth and peace is pictured in Luke’s birth story of Jesus.  A baby is born during a time of census within a vast and mighty empire; “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).  And what is the chorus sung by the multitude of the heavenly host that will herald this new Messiah’s reign?  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those with whom God is well-pleased.”  And who was among those with whom God was well-pleased?  A poor married couple from Nazareth, a helpless baby, a bunch of dirt-poor shepherds, and foreign stargazers from today’s modern country of Iran.

Isn’t it somewhat strange that in our present time of pandemic and pandemonium, we, like ancient Israel, are looking for leaders or a leader (a messiah) to deliver us from disease and destruction?  Isn’t it ironic that we find ourselves in need of a messiah during a year when a census is being taken in an empire much more powerful and vast than ancient Rome?

The Christmas peace that followers of the way of Jesus have been called to share is that we do have a messiah, a deliverer of God’s truth, righteousness, justice, and peace, who is Jesus Christ our Lord.  How can we become children of the living God?  How will we live so that all people may know that we are Christ-followers?

Perhaps it involves becoming child-like.

Two of our church members sent me a card that had a peaceful image from the Montreal Botanical Gardens.  The message inside the card was a familiar one whose original author was Robert Fulghum.

“All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten . . . . Share everything.  Play fair.  Don’t hit people.  Put things back where you found them.  Clean up your own mess.  Don’t take things that aren’t yours.  Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.  Wash your hands before you eat.  Flush.  Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.  When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.  Be aware of wonder.  Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup:

The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.  Goldfish and hamsters and mice and even the little seed in the cup – they all die.  So do we.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.  The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.  Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Are we among those with whom God is well-pleased?

Let us pray: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me; let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our Creator, children all are we.  Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.  Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.  With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.  Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  Amen.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Greg Rupright

 



Comments

07-26-2020 at 10:33 AM
Pat May
Nice to read this in my “heaven” that isTrout Lake, especially since I couldn’t get into Facebook for todays church Service!
Much love...
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