It never fails.
Despite my best efforts...despite my 'resolutions' to do it differently, each year I come up to Christmas day and think "I wish I would have..."
Sometimes it's "I wish I would have done more service (to help show the generous love of God) this Christmas".
Sometimes it's "I wish we would have done more as a family to prepare our hearts to Worship the Christ child this Christmas".
Sometimes it's "I wish I would have had my act together and sent out more Christmas cards" this Christmas.
One thing I ALWAYS wish I would have done more is to take some time--each day leading up to it--and consider what Christmas has meant in my life.
After all, without Christmas--the coming of God to Earth in the form of that baby--the world would be a dramatically different place. (And, my life...if still in existence...would be dramatically different!)
So, here's what I hope to do: Take one scripture about Christ/Christmas and think about the theological and personal implications of it each day.
Wanna join me?
If so, the Scripture will be this: Isaiah 9:1-7.
You can look at it in your own Bible, of course...but if you don't have one, I'll show the sections here. I'll look at a few of the verses each day for the next several days. I hope it helps me--and you--to really prepare your heart and mind to really CELEBRATE CHRIST this Christmas!
Isaiah 9:1-5 (for today)...
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death [a]
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
Don't get scared away by some of those terms! "Zebulin" "Naphtali"...these are simply cities in the area that Isaiah (hundreds of years before Jesus' birth) was preaching to.
What's he saying here? That a New Day is coming! That the time when his people (Israel) was condemned to live in captivity and slavery would be ending! God was going to send a Deliverer...someone who would lead them out of darkness, into light...out of slavery into freedom...out of war, into peace!
This (of course!) would cause the people to celebrate and worship!
What is it that CAUSES all of this?
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders."
A child...a Savior...a Deliver would be born. One day, that child would grow and lead them out! It would be a time of freedom and celebration, liberation--like the dawn of a new day!
Was Isaiah talking specifically about Jesus' birthday? Scholars always debate this kind of thing...but even if he wasn't directly conscious of this, I believe he was! God had inspired him to dream--and to prophecy--about coming events that he didn't fully understand!
So, what's this all mean to me, or to you?
Well, is there any sense in which we "walk in darkness"? Is there any sense in which we are "slaves"? I definitely think so!
The rest of the Scriptures teach us that we are slaves to sin, and (as a result), we are trapped in darkness...separated from the light and freedom--the wholeness and peace--of God.
We are stuck in the dark with no hope of dawn!
That's a pretty bad place to be!
BUT, because God didn't want to leave us that way, he sent His Son--"Unto us a Child is Born, unto us a Son is given..." . That Son would grow, teach, lead, love, and ultimately would sacrifice Himself for us, taking the penalty of our sins, and making it possible for us to have New LIFE--freedom, wholeness, peace and joy--with God!
"The government will be upon His shoulders". Again, I think there's more than one meaning here. Ultimately, the Scriptures are clear: There WILL come a day in which Jesus will RULE the Earth, and will make everything right, pure, and holy. In the meantime, the 'government' of our lives can be upon His shoulders...and we can learn to experience that freedom, real joy, and peace that comes from following Him...letting Him be our Leader!
On a personal level, I've experienced this, more or less, for the last 30 years. The times when I'm really letting Him be my leader are the times that I experience the freedom and newness of Life...but the times I try to do it on my own--or I simply let myself get too busy with life (or Christmas shopping!) are the times it almost seems like the "great light" is getting clouded out!
In the coming days, I'll consider the rest of this prophecy...one element at a time...but in the meantime, let's all consider: Have we let Jesus lead us out of the darkness, by faith? Have we allowed Him to be the Leader of our lives?
If so, CELEBRATE the dawn of a new day! If not, I encourage you to pray about that--ask God what it means--so that you can REALLY 'celebrate' Christmas this year!