Looking Ahead

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

It is difficult to look ahead when you are walking in darkness or living in the darkness.

This was certainly the case for the people of Israel. More specifically the people of the southern Kingdom of Judah. In our biblical time line there are now two Kingdoms; one in the north called Israel and one in the south called Judah. Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.

Isaiah 9:1-7

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

It is difficult to look ahead when you are walking in darkness or living in the darkness.

This was certainly the case for the people of Israel. More specifically the people of the southern Kingdom of Judah. In our biblical time line there are now two Kingdoms; one in the north called Israel and one in the south called Judah. Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.

The historical context of today’s reading is complicated. But simply put, Isaiah the prophet is under attack, there are a few people who still seek out and understand God as a sanctuary and a whole lot of people who see God at best as absent or at worst a stumbling block to their human made plans.

God’s judgment was coming and before the people could see or even envision a great light, they would be thrust into deep darkness.

It is these opening words of the poem to which I am drawn this morning.

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.

Who are the people who walk in darkness?

What do they look like?

Do they look like you and me or do they look different than you and me?

Who are the people who live in a land of deep darkness?

Where do they live?

How did they wind up living in a place of deep darkness? Did it happen because of the choices they made or did it happen because of circumstances that were beyond their control.

The people to whom Isaiah is preaching to ended up in the darkness because of the choices of the King and the leadership of the people. They were disobedient to the covenant God had made with them and they placed their trust on earthly powers out of fear or unbelief or who knows what else.

It is different for us. Not the darkness itself but how we end up there and what it means in our lives.

What does the darkness look like for you? Are you walking in it or are you living in it and can you even name it?

Are you looking for meaning and purpose and value in your life and you are finding it to be a struggle to see what that would look like for you or it feels like it is out of your grasp and you don’t know what to do or who to turn to for help.

Is this walking in the darkness or is it living in the darkness or is it both.

What does the darkness look like for you?

Is it feeling a sense of anger and fear that won’t go away and you cannot identify why you are feeling this way. You may have ideas of what it is or it may even change from day to day but all you know is there is a pit in your stomach and in your soul and it feels like there will be no end to it.

Is there tension in your family that you are unable to talk about? Are there health challenges, financial insecurities, are you beaten down.

Darkness is not knowing what to do, it is being unsure as to why you are even feeling the way you are feeling.

Darkness is fear, it is loss of hope, direction, and community. It is isolating and paralyzing.

God through the prophet Isaiah is speaking to you and me. Right here and right now a promise is spoken.

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.

Isaiah acknowledges the darkness and declares the light.

The question for you and me is do we see it. Those who dwell in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.

Into our world and into our lives God intervenes. And as always it seems God intervenes in an unexpected manner. Unlooked for but powerful.

For all the boots of the tramping 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.

God promises to take the weapons of war and destruction and burn them as fuel for the cleansing fire. There will be a child born, given to you and me that will make it possible for you and me to walk out of the darkness and into the light.

This prophecy of Isiah makes it possible for us to look ahead. It gives us hope.

When the darkness becomes so dark we have lost our way, God promises to send the light.

When we have lived in the darkness for so long we no longer have any hope, God promises to send the light.

Isaiah foretells the coming of Jesus into a world filled with darkness. It is no wonder Jesus, speaking about himself in the 8th chapter of John’s gospel says; “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.

Late Wednesday night I received an email from someone who had been to the bible study that night. It was a simple, short reflection on this passage from Isaiah. This is what was written.

Darkness: anger, fear, anguish, torment, envy, hatred, jealousy, gossip, superiority, self pity, lies, and destruction. The other is Light: kindness, love, serenity, humility, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, compassion and faith. Which one wins out?

We know which one wins out because whenever and wherever the light shines it is visible and we see it. The very fact that you are here this morning is a statement that the light has shined somehow or someway into the darkness of your life. Jesus has made his way into your life and His light has shined on you.

The guests that are using our building as a refuge against the cold and the loneliness of homelessness is a statement that the light is shining into the darkness.

The ability and the willingness to have open, honest and respectful conversations with others about matters that are hard to talk about is I would suggest a sign that those who walk in darkness have seen a great light. Let us not give up hope. Let us not succumb to the darkness.

I don’t know what it is like for you but when I find myself either walking or living in the darkness, I need the power of others and the gift of community to help me see the light and to know it is there.

You help me to see the light and make it possible for me to look ahead in hope and with courage.

Who else might you do that for in the upcoming week as one of those people who walk in darkness yet have still seen the light.

Remember my sisters and brothers, remember and do not forget that the light shines in the darkness and the world will not overcome it.

For unto us a child is born, a son is given.

For the light of the world we say thanks be to God

 

Comments