Hope Springs Eternal! Reflections on Isaiah 9:2-7, 52:7-10 (Christmas Eve/Christmas Day)

And that leads us right to Isaiah 52:7-10. Though we now enter history some two hundred years later, sometime at the end of the grinding exile in Babylon, hope sings again for a fainting people. "How radiant on the mountains are the messengers' feet who announce shalom, who carry good, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God rules!'" (Is. 52:7) The hopeless people are regaled with the truth that YHWH has gone back to Jerusalem, the blasted city, in order to prepare the way for the returning exiles. This YHWH has "comforted God's people, has redeemed Jerusalem" (Is. 52:8). As a result of YHWH's return, "all the ends of the earth will witness the salvation of our God" (Is. 52:10).

And in these words, we find our charge from YHWH to join the messengers of shalom, to add our feet to the radiant messengers on the mountains, proclaiming that our God rules. But of course we say that every week in our sanctuaries, don't we? Tucked into the monotone mumblings of our Lord's Prayer we all say, however fleetingly, however unknowingly, that we want, we urge, we ask that "Thy Kingdom come." And what do we mean by that brief, too familiar, clause? We are asking that God reign in Zion, that God return to a wasted Jerusalem, that God rule with justice and righteousness so that our darkness may become light, so that God's world may at last truly become God's world and not ours alone.

We Christians proclaim this night and this day that that very son has been born to us—that one who reminds yet again, one more time, that unless God rules, the darkness will win, the boots will tramp, the ways of the world will not change. "May the time not be distant, O God, when your name will be proclaimed throughout the earth," sounds a great Jewish prayer. And so we say this night, too. May that time be now. And may God make this Christmas far more than merry. May God make this Christmas God's Christmas of peace finally and forever.

12/19/2013 5:00:00 AM
John Holbert
About John Holbert
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.