The Light is Coming…

I have spent quite a bit of time this week thinking about Isaiah 9:2.

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.

It is one of those texts that people get or they don’t. Yes, we can understand the history of it, we can understand the Israelite people and all that they were going through, but that doesn’t always translate into “getting it.”

For some reason I woke up in the middle of the night, it was 3:30 in the morning and I could not get back to sleep. Eventually, I decided that it would be better to just get up for a while. After about half an hour of playing on the computer I decided that I would go back to bed. I turned the computer monitor off, got up and turned off the living room light and found myself in the pitch black of night. When I entered the living room, I could see just fine, we have night lights in the hall and in the bathroom. Now that I had spent some time in the light, the dark was deeper, blinding. We live in the dark with some light, then someone turns on the light and we realize how much darkness was invading our lives. We don’t “get it” until we really “get it.” The bright light of Christ, the one that shines on us, when we are in his light, the dark becomes unacceptable.

Tonight, sitting in church with my friends and family, someone will turn the lights in the sanctuary off. Slowly, flame by flame, the sanctuary will be illuminated with the small flame of hundreds of candles, the dark will be no more.  The light of a baby Jesus coming into the world, through our hands.

As I see the candles being lit, I am reminded that every person holding a candle, the people who cannot, and the people at home stuck in the consumerism of Christmas, every man woman and child, is worthy of Love. The Love that surpasses all understanding. This is what I will remember as I light my candle tonight. And every candle through the year.

I wanted to share a video that friends of mine shared on Facebook. We are worthy of Love, Thanks be to God….

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Isaiah 9:2

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 9:2)

I wish I could remember where I read this but it is my favorite quote…”Light returns dark to its original nothingness.”

Isaiah 9:2-7

United Methodist Lectionary

Yesterday I found out that the United Methodist Church has a Lectionary all its own. That makes things a little easier. The United Methodist Lectionary does not have as many choices as the Revised Common Lectionary, instead the UMC lectionary has four texts, slightly different from the Revised Common Lectionary. It also includes other information to help with Sunday planning! Very helpful!

Isaiah 9:2-7

Isaiah, the Old Testament book that Christians love to quote. It talks of Christ our King throughout the book. We get amazing quotes like “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” (Isaiah 9:6). Today, Christians quote this book so often that it becomes very hard to read the text without the Christian lens. When I hear people talking of Leviticus I often hear about the New Covenant, how the law does not apply to us because Christ has fulfilled the law but I can’t recall anyone ignoring Isaiah because of Christ, instead people quote it for the same reason the ignore Leviticus, Christ. I can’t be “not Christian,” I can’t read this text as an 8th century Judahite. But I can try to understand some of the history, even if I can’t live it.

History…

If we were to pick up a history book and begin reading about the United States of America, Great Britain, President James Madison, France, Canada, Native American’s and maritime rights, then turned the page and began reading about Japan, Germany, Pearl Harbor, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, we would do a double take and murmur a silent “huh?”. We just jumped a few years from the War of 1812 to the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor and we would know it.

We may not notice it but the same happens in Isaiah. The first 39 chapters in the book of Isaiah take place during a time when Assyria’s power is increasing, the second half of the eighth century BCE through the beginning of the seventh century BCE. Assyria is threatening the Northern Kingdom of Israel and eventually the Southern Kingdom of Judah. These 39 chapters, minus a couple of later additions like Isaiah 24-27, (apocalyptic literature probably written no earlier than the sixth century BCE) are known as 1 Isaiah (Coogan, page 332).

Starting with Isaiah 40, we begin to hear a voice from a different time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is no more and Babylon is threatening the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the capital city, Jerusalem. The Assyria of Isaiah 19:24 is a memory, the Babylonians conquered it in 608 BCE (Coogan, page 349). Starting with Isaiah 40, we have a new voice from a different time, with different kings and even different nations.

Lens…

As I read Isaiah 9:2-7 this week, I will listen to the promise of child from the lens of a twenty-first century Christian, I will read about the promise of light coming into the darkness of our world. As I read, I will try to remember that Isaiah was living in a darkness, a time and place, very different from the darkness I know. A time when the powerful nation of Assyria could take a land and its people, a time when kings ruled, war was constant, and God spoke to a Prophet telling of a people who yearn for “endless peace for the throne of David and His Kingdom” (Isaiah 9:7).

Revised Common Lectionary…Too Many Choices

Learning the Lectionary…

The Revised Common Lectionary surprised me yesterday when I opened the webpage to an abundance of choices for text on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My world was a much easier one to live in when I was able to choose from 4 texts instead of the 12 that the Revised Common Lectionary offered this week. The text that my home church choose for this week is Luke 2:1-20. (The only reason I know is that our Youth Pastor creates a Lectio Divina podcast for us to listen to every week.) I was going to pick a text from the same “Proper,” I, II, or III, that they choose from but it ended up not being that easy (what else did I expect?). The Revised Common Lectionary lists Luke 2:1-20 twice. It is in Proper I, and in Proper II.

After roaming around the internet for a few this morning, I don’t really have an answer as to WHY there are 3 sets of text to choose from this week. (If YOU know, could you drop an answer in the comments?) I did find an amazing explanation for the Lectionary as a whole on the Reformed Worship blog, this blog alone made it well worth my time this morning! The example that Friz West gave made the Lectionary easier to understand. Loved it!

Picking the Text…

After flipping a coin…well asking my 14-year-old (Happy Birthday, Dev!) to pick a whole number between 1 and 2, I will be picking a text from Proper I this week. Staying with the Old Testament for the time being that gives me Isaiah 9:2-7.

Isaiah 9:2-7

The Message (MSG)

 2-7The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Strong God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will do all this.