Last week we entered the season in the Christian year called Advent. A four week period of time where we wait. Wait for the advent of Jesus. Both the first advent, as we long and wait for the coming of the Christ Child. And also long and wait for the second coming of Jesus, to set the world right. To put it back the way that it was originally created to be. In fact the word advent actually means coming. And so my prayer for each of us is that we would wait, and prepare ourselves to receive him. That is one reason that we created the Advent devotional and sent it out so that you could use it as a resource to prepare yourself for the advent of Jesus. (if you need a copy feel free to talk with me and I can send you a copy)
Last week, the first week of Advent, we talked about waiting for hope. We talked about waiting for hope from the lens of the Israelites who lived 700 years before Jesus and their longing for hope and deliverance from the hand of foreign oppressive empires. And how they were delivered by Hezekiah but that was only temporary. The deeper fulfillment of the longing for hope that they had for deliverance, freedom, and salvation was to come in the person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And we talked about how the first Sunday in Advent was the time where we talked about longing for hope of the second coming of Jesus to set the world right. About how we look around and all we see is broken and how we long for the world to be made right, the way that it is supposed to be.
Today, as we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent, we talk about waiting for peace. And to do that we will look at the same text that we looked at last week, Isaiah 9:1-7.
Isaiah 9:1-7 says, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Last week we focused especially on verse 2 and today we will focus especially on verses 6-7 (as well as a little on verse 5).
So as I said before, Isaiah is writing this 700 years before the coming of Jesus, and there are thoughts that he was referring to Hezekiah and his kingship and his trust in Yahweh to deliver them from the hand of the Assyrian empire. But that there is also a truer and deeper fulfillment of this text in the person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Verse 6 says “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”. In this verse Isaiah is using the Hebrew literary tool of repetition to emphasize a point. What point is he making by using repetition? The point that this messiah, this anointed one, this deliverer of the people of Israel, God’s people, this victorious one would be a man. A man, but more than a man. Jesus came all those years later, fulfilling these words. John 1:14 in the Message puts it this way, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Jesus is Immanuel. God with us. Remember a few weeks ago during our last series that we talked about the fact that God is for us, he is with us, he was one of us, and that he then comes to live in us? Verse 6 gets at those first three points from our last series. That Jesus came for us. That he was with us. And that he became one of us. Jesus was sent or given from the Father to live among his creation. To live another reality in the midst of this broken reality. To live the Kingdom of God in the midst of the Kingdom of this world.
This man. This messiah would also be King and according to the second half of verse 6, have the government on his shoulders. Now what in the world does that mean? When we look around at the governments that have come and gone, the empires that have sprung up and then died off, we don’t tend to see Jesus undergirding them, holding them up on his shoulders. And when we look at the brokenness, sin, violence and war, it all too often seems like if Jesus truly is King, and has the government on his shoulders, than something is wrong. You see while this is true that Jesus is King, and that the Kingdom of God is a reality, both his Kingdom and his Kingship is a now and not yet reality. Jesus, says it himself, that the Kingdom of God is here, when he walked this earth. And that he is definitely ruling and reigning over his Kingdom even now. But both the Kingdom and his Kingship won’t come fully until he returns. His life, death, and resurrection began the fulfillment of his Kingdom and Kingship and his return will complete it. And so we wait. We wait for his Kingdom to come, and his will to be done. But we don’t just sit on our hands and wait. It is more of an active waiting. Actively waiting for his coming. His advent.
Isaiah continues and begins to describe what this anointed one, this man, this Messiah would be like. Not his names but aspects of his character. In the second half of verse 6 this Messiah, this redeemer, this deliverer is called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” These attributes, the aspects of his character point directly to the divine nature of Jesus. The first part of verse 6 spelled out his humanity and the last half of verse 6 spells out his divinity. It’s this last characteristic that I want to unpack a little, Prince of Peace. This phrase Prince of Peace might be better understood as ruler in charge of peace. And as we talked about earlier this fall the word peace here is the word Shalom. Shalom means peace but not just in an absence of conflict or war, but more in terms of wholeness, rightness, joy, or as I love to put it, “the way things should be.” Jesus was/is to be that Prince of Peace, a different kind of ruler for a different kind of world, and a different kind of kingdom. A Kingdom of Shalom. A Kingdom of Peace. And a shalom not derived by violence.
You see the first advent of Jesus was in the midst of what was known as the Pax Romana or the Peace of Rome. A peace that was derived by violence, death, and threats of both. And a peace derived by violence and secured by death is not peace. Is not shalom. When Jesus came his life, his death, his resurrection directly contradicted the Pax Romana and he established the Pax Christi, the peace of Christ in which shalom was established not by the Messiah picking up a sword, and using violence to bring about peace, but to subject himself to the violence of the empire, to die on the violent tool used to keep the Pax Romana, a roman cross. He didn’t shed others blood for peace. He allowed his blood to be shed by his enemies so that true Shalom would happen. His dream for Shalom is also spelled out in verse 5, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” And this was good news then, and it is good news now. N.T. Wright says, “Good news for a people, like so many today, who find themselves caught up in wars they neither started nor wanted.”
Isaiah wraps up this part of this messianic prophecy by saying that his peace and his kingdom will never end. That it will go on and on. And that eventually his peace and his kingdom will come in all of its fullness. That this messiah will come and set the world right and shalom will rule throughout the world. That it will be the way that it should be.
But we live in between the advents. Between the trees as one video puts it. Between the time that Jesus came to start the process of Shalom and the time that Shalom will come in its fullness. All you have to do is look at the news to see that Shalom isn’t fully here. In fact, more times than not we might actually be tempted to say “is there shalom anywhere right now?” Things are not the way they should be. Violence, racism, injustice, war, death, destruction, and suffering are all too common in our world. It seems like Jesus isn’t ruling and reigning and that Christmas time is just a nice story and an escape from reality. But Christmas isn’t just a nice story or an escape from reality. NT Wright says this about Christmas, “Christmas isn’t about an escape from the real world of politics and economics, of empires and taxes and bloodthirsty wars. It is about God addressing these problems at last from within, coming into our world- his world.”
Waiting for peace. Waiting for His Shalom to come in fullness. Waiting for Jesus to set it the world to right, the way that it should be. But as I mentioned before this waiting for peace doesn’t mean that we fold our hands, sit on the couch and wait for him to bring shalom. No, it is an active waiting. An active shalom making. Exactly what it says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” It seems like anytime people bring up the subject of working for shalom in the world, people will say it will never happen until Christ comes back. As that is an excuse to mean that we shouldn’t even attempt to do anything about the violence, war, hatred, and death that we humans inflict upon one another. They are right that Shalom won’t come in it’s fullness until Christ comes back, establishes his rule and reign here on earth, and sets everything right. But he calls us right now, right in the midst of the brokenness, in the midst of violence, in the midst of hate, pain, and war, to live Shalom right now and right here.
My questions for us this advent season, while we wait and long and hope, while we look to the coming of the Christ child are these:
Where do you need the Shalom of the Christ child in your life? Where do you need the Prince of Peace to step into your life and begin the process of setting it right?
2. How can you and I engage in active shalom making in the midst of waiting during this advent season? To whom and to where are you called to work for Shalom in this world? What can you do during advent to bring the Shalom of God to bear in this world?
Those are some of the questions that we’ll wrestle with together during our discussion time together.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. does this Scripture text and/or the message bring to your mind?
2 Where do you need the Shalom of the Christ child in your life? Where do you need the Prince of Peace to step into your life and begin the process of setting it right?
3. How can you and I engage in active shalom making in the midst of waiting during this advent season? To whom and to where are you called to work for Shalom in this world? What can you do during advent to bring the Shalom of God to bear in this world?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?