December 24, 2017 (10AM Service) — Rev. Paula Norbert
Beautiful words we hear today from Isaiah, this prophet- poet, speaking about a child “born for us” who shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, and prince of peace. Early in Advent, we read from Isaiah the passage we call the peaceable kingdom where Isaiah prophesies about a time when natural enemies will live together and a little child shall lead them…We have spent these past few weeks in preparation for the coming of a little child, not some grand ruler, but a gentle, vulnerable baby. These were the hopes of the people of that day which invite us to consider our own hopes, our dreams for a world of righteousness and peace, a peace that passeth all human understanding. Let us pray, Almighty God, you invite us to imagine this world of your peace, where your Son, the prince of peace will lead us to the building of your kingdom here on earth, a holy space where hurt and destruction have no place, and a little child holds sway. Help us to set aside worry, fear and despair, that we may sow seeds of joy and peace, that shoots of hope may spring forth and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.
Some time ago, I saw a sweet story on the evening news about the friendship between a 3 year old boy and his grandparent’s dog. The little boy is a foster child and his grandmother had taken several pictures of him with this precious dog and, like so much on the internet that is especially cute, many people viewed the photos. The boy and the dog have a very special relationship and they are both beautiful. The pictures don’t fully show the boy’s face to respect his privacy, but it is clear that he and the dog are best buddies. As his grandmother came to realize how many people enjoyed the pictures, she decided to publish a book of the pictures with all of the proceeds going to support foster children and the families who care for them. Already, this little boy and his dog have brought greater awareness to the needs of those in foster care across our country, and to the families who care for them.
As we look to our reading from Isaiah today, we hear those wonderful words that, “the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Indeed, the people of that time lived with hardship and great suffering, and felt at times that the darkness had engulfed them. To speak of God’s light shining upon them gave them hope, that God had not forgotten them; that God stood with them in their desire for justice and peace, and in fact, Isaiah, says to God, “ You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; “ To know that those who felt forgotten were in fact not, that God was focused upon them, shining a light of hope for a time when God’s Kingdom would bring about the kind of world for which they had so longed, brought great joy to this community.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Isaiah, our prophet of old, speaks about this long awaited One, we hear that ‘The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him; the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.” Such important qualities for any leader…wisdom and understanding, knowledge and humility…And he will be guided, not only by what he experiences first hand but by larger and more important goals…that will guide his priorities. We hear the language of righteousness and equity to describe how this Savior will reach out to the poor and to the meek, not judging at face value but with a much larger plan for doing what is right and just.
And then we hear, a ‘child has been born for us’, for us, for all people. A little child, not a strong and powerful adult, but a child. This image of a child in the passage suggests gentleness and vulnerability. And, of course, we read this today as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, who became the great leader of righteousness and mercy, of justice and peace…the long awaited one, who spent his life trying to teach his followers about this vision God has for our world, this place of peace and dignity for all persons that we still yearn for today. Not only did Jesus speak about it, but he lived it in the way he treated those he met along the dusty roads of his travels.
As we gather today, let us look for the signs of hope and peace in our midst. Sometimes, we feel that we too live in darkness, as people in every generation have felt over time. There has too long been suffering and injustice in our world, and yet today, we celebrate the Prince of Peace. We join with those from across many generations to welcome the hope and peace and joy of God who came among us to remind us that love is at the heart of what God has long desired for us. As we think about the Christ child, we are invited to focus upon the places that radiate the spirit of God’s love for us, that reflect the beauty of the peaceable kingdom in our midst. How have children brightened our lives and given us hope? How might we do something on behalf of children in this season, always mindful that we are all children of God…and that it all began so long ago with a little child in a humble setting.