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.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
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.
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 Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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.
It’s no small wonder that some of the best Old Testament readings for Advent are from the prophet Isaiah. He preached at a time when his nation was at its most depressed.
Yet Isaiah saw through what was happening and glimpsed the mercy and the majesty of God, and expressed his hope that God will come and save his people.
How fitting that this passage begins with, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” All through the Bible, light is equated with God and goodness and revelation. When a light comes on, things are revealed—you see things that you couldn’t before. God as a light does that for us. When God’s light shines into our lives, we see things that we couldn’t see before. When God’s light shined on my soul four years ago, my whole life changed and I saw a path that led me to Calvary.
But God doesn’t just HAVE a light …God IS light. God is the Creator and the source of everything. No surprise then that Jesus also proclaimed “I am the Light.” (John 9:5). Jesus’s God-consciousness was absolute. But for Jesus it didn’t end there. His intention was to raise others up to the same status, as when he said to his followers, “You are the Light of the world.” (Matthew 5:12) Making others enlightened was his purpose, so I’m trying my best to be as conscious of God as I can, to see God wherever I go and in all that I do.
Verse 6 is by far the most famous and beloved, since it’s so beautiful and so perfectly encompasses the aspirations of Advent, for God in human form to show us The Way. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” I have to admit that it all sounds like pure poetry to me except for “Counselor.” That word always rang a little strangely in my ears, so it was good to get another chance to focus on it. The more I consider it, though, the more I like it. Seeking Jesus’ counsel is always a good idea when you’re unsure of what to do next. I’ve never gotten a direct response, but sitting in silence and pondering the concept of “What would Jesus have me to do” is the best way I’ve found to come up with the best answer.
And let us all pray for the result in the final verse — a peaceful and just kingdom that goes on forever. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all. Amen.