Be careful what you wish for.
reinterpreted by Deborah
The people who were stumbling around in the dark have seen the light; morning has dawned on those who lived in endless gloom. Your mercy has strengthened us, Your love has inspired us.
We are as joyous as children on Christmas morning, as happy as clams at high tide — secure and safe from all harm. We have been relieved of our burdens, our despair has been lifted, our hope restored.
We are as free as birds in the open air, as delighted as captives released from a dungeon. The soul-crushing worries have been dissolved, the bone-chilling fears are gone, our joy is complete.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; His authority extends to the ends of the earth, and he is called Wonderful Counselor, Source of Strength, Eternal Life, Prince of Peace.
When His teachings are followed, peace will spread across the planet and to every nation. Justice will be upheld and goodness will triumph now and forevermore.
God’s passionate love will make it so.
Isaiah is rarely a bearer of glad tidings, but in this passage he promises great benefits and blessings to his people. A new day has dawned, he tells them, bringing a new beginning and new hope — after a long and desperate darkness. God’s love, he says, will prevail.
And he wasn’t speaking of a day far in the future, but soon, and in very concrete terms. Isaiah was predicting that a different kind of king would rule over Judah following the reign of one who had led the country astray. This new king would restore the people’s prosperity, eradicate injustice, and bring lasting peace to the nation.
It has ever been thus: we always think a “new broom” will sweep out all the muck and madness and corruption from our world. But it never does.
On one hand our hopeful nature is encouraging; it means we never surrender to cynicism or despair. We always have hope, however faint. We always believe there is someone or something that can take care of the troubles that plague us.
And that hope is a blessing, because it means we are aware that our world is far from perfect: we recognize the shortcomings and failings, we see that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement. We know that there is still work to be done.
On the other hand we tend to seek the solution out there. We look for a great Fixer who can instantly repair every problem and eliminate every failing: something in between a military commander and a magician. We see the troubles quite well, but their sheer number and severity seem overwhelming, far more than we can handle — but something must be done!
We want everything to be all right and we want it now.
Our anxious desire for a “quick fix” can get us into terrible trouble. It tempts us to approve of draconian legislation and inhumane punishment. It entices us to join ill-considered causes and to divide ourselves up into “parties” and “special interest groups” and believing every unfounded allegation and biased statement made by “our side.”
Those worldly manipulations — the enmity and empty promises — erode our souls. They inspire not hope, but despair and cynicism, as we grow tired of chasing illusions and exhausted by the endless strife and discord. Fear and hatred are toxins: they destroy everything they touch.
The Ruler of this World has shown itself again — as it has continually throughout the ages: the power of hatred, suspicion, violence, rage, and fear. It is a very great power, not to be underestimated. It is a power that can destroy but never build up; it can harm, but it cannot heal; it can curse, but it will never bless.
That hate business just isn’t cutting it.
There is indeed a need for “a new thing,” for a Way that leads us out of rage and resentment. But it cannot come from outside of us. No law or legislation can turn evil intentions into kindness. No general or prince or earthly ruler can change human hearts. The world cannot be redeemed from wickedness through violence and outrage; only “God’s passionate love will make it so” — combined with our own passionate love for God and God’s people.
Time and again the Beloved has reached out to us, telling us that the only true power, the only meaningful power, the only lasting power is love. Love gives life; all other powers lead to destruction and death. In the battles between earthly powers, no one wins.
Only love lasts.
As Christians we believe this statement was made definitively in the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus. And we are supposed to act accordingly: with compassion and love.
This is not always easy. In fact, it rarely is. There is an ever-present temptation to respond to worldly power in kind: to fight fire with fire, to hate and harm; to do unto others before they have a chance to do unto us. But we have been called to follow the One who came to us as an infant: innocent, vulnerable, gentle and mild.
That fact is tremendously important, so important that it merits a yearly reminder: the Son of God came in peace. There was no conquering army or sword-wielding seraphim, only radiant angels singing God’s praise.
The greatest power the world has ever known entered the world as a little child. No threats, no violence. We have nothing to fear. We are simply called to love.
That is genuinely good news.
It is in remembering that holy truth that we can best honor the birth of our Lord. Let us celebrate Christmas by giving the Baby Jesus the gift of our lives — lived according to His teachings; lives filled with kindness and compassion. That is truly “the gift that keeps on giving.”
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Celebrate Christmas every day.