Light on a Dark Christmas Isaiah 9:2-7

At Veterans Memorial Chapel

By Ch Jim Odell

This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the homily for the Candlelight Service on December 24. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.

Last January, on my first sermon on the year, I quipped in jest that this year everyone would be seeing perfectly, even without glasses, after all we are all seeing 20/20. Little did any of us realize then what a horrific year this was going to be. The world-wide COVID pandemic that does not seem to want to stop, the various shut downs and travel bans, economic issues, social unrest, a spirited election with much turmoil, even after the election. It is a year that won’t soon be forgotten.

In much the same way, as our Savior came into our world, He entered a world full of turmoil. Rome ruled the world, and oppressed all to feather it’s own nest. A new Emperor introduced a new tax, “Property Tax” to be specific. That made for a mad dash for all Jews to return to their ancient ancestral homes to register their property. The Temple, and its worship, was corrupted by those who “bought” their titles from the Roman government. The grandson of the last Edomite King, through political strategies and marriage alliances, had gotten himself crowned “King of the Jews.” Now this old king, having become both paranoid and senile, was killing off any who would oppose him.

Yet God kept his promise to visit His people that in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4-5) He would send them a deliverer. That deliverer came in the form of a baby, born in a stable in Bethlehem. He lived among us for some 30 plus years and then died by execution at the hands of those who opposed Him. And in doing so, paid the price for us to live with Him.

Tonight’s passage speaks of a light shining forth into darkness. We, like the ancient people of old, dwell in darkness. We do not know where to go. Our leaders do not know how long this epidemic may last, or what our next political situation should be, or where certain economic ramifications are to the decisions they make. But God has shined His light on us.

I recall, back in Chaplain Basic Course, they sent “us chaplains” out one dark night to the “land navigation” course. We needed to find our way without lights through our course. Many other units were doing night maneuvers also. Lots of noise, helicopters, with only a little red light in back, flying at tree level. Live night machine gun fire on the next hill over, and of course the heavy artillery was practicing, giving us the only real light we had. One of my fellow chaplains, a lane or two to my right, stepped in a hole and twisted his ankle. We got word and passed it on. Suddenly, something I will never forget took place. A helicopter flew into our area, and shown a floodlight over our course, and found the team in distress, then led them out to a road to a waiting vehicle.

What a beautiful picture of what God did for us in sending Jesus. We can see the road ahead enough to get where we need to go to be in a place of safety.

Our passage tells us that the “child born” is also a “son given” (9:6), One who will rule the entire world in “justice and righteousness” (9:7).

As we look about us in 2020 and 2021, and are prone to ask, “Where is God now, and what is He doing?” My reply is this, He came the first time as a child, and the Bible says He will return as a conqueror. When? Well again, “in the fullness of time,” when God sees the time is right.

So this evening we look back at Christ’s first advent, and receive the “hope” or assurance that His Second Advent is coming. After all all other hopes are as fleeting as the joys of last year’s Christmas presents once the wrappings are removed. Only the “hope” that Jesus brings will last.