4 For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 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. 7 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 onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9: 4-7 NRSV
This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah to the people of Israel. It paints a harsh picture of what the nation has been through: boots of warriors thundering through the land, and garments which are not just blood-stained, but blood-soaked!
The imagery Isaiah uses to describe the plight of his beloved nation is extreme: they have been living in “deep darkness”. They have felt the yoke of “oppression.”
All of that has changed with the birth of a child. This child brings hope. Specifically, he brings justice, and righteousness, and endless peace. (This would have been very meaningful to Isaiah’s original audience, who were used to their nation being overrun or threatened by one invading nation or another).
Many of us may relate to the feelings of Isaiah’s people. We look around and see conflict, and injustice, and things which are just not right. This is true not only here, but around the world. The pandemic we have endured has resulted in a feeling of oppression, if not by the virus itself, then by some of the restrictions put in place to slow its spread. Some have felt the loss of personal choice to be debilitating. Families have lost loved ones without being able to say goodbye. We may not be “blood-soaked” like this scripture, but our hearts have been deeply burdened.
The good news we celebrate at Christmas is that the child was born not just for Isaiah’s people, but also for all of us. The baby born in Bethlehem carries many titles (Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting God). He will only grow in authority as time marches on, bringing with Him a reign of hope, justice, righteousness, and endless peace. We may not all live to see the fruition of the Lord’s promise. Yet we can certainly know, and trust, that all things are in God’s hands.
We claim those promises each and every Christmas, and even all year long. Perhaps we are claiming them more fervently this year. Come, Lord Jesus! We celebrate and rejoice that you were born into our world!
I see from this scripture that the burdens of life are not isolated to one circumstance. You desire to see Your hand at work in my life, and in the lives of others. I see that this desire has not slowed down with time. Give me the strength and wisdom to look back, in order to help me look forward with faith and trust in You. Thank You for Your constant love, and help me to trust You in all things.
With a hopeful heart, I pray this prayer in the name will bring endless peace, Your Son and Our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen