New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
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 exultation;
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 Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Great will be his authority,
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 onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah conveys a word He has received for the people around him who are crushed, broken, despairing of life, depressed, rejected, and oppressed and out of ideas for how to fix things. In a leadership vacuum, they have no voice to call them or unify them. They have known success and seen success depart,. They have had victories without deep satisfaction. They have experienced defeat and they have known slavery. Like many today, the people walked in darkness. Like many today, there is a crying need for light. We hang lights on our trees, but we are called to carry the light on our persons.
Light has come to the world in the person of Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus the Christ. He has saved us and filled us with His own Spirit so that we might carry His light in the world where there is a deep and absent void.
The ABSENT VOID
There is darkness and it cannot be disputed or denied. Nor need we attack it at its roots because its roots are in the absence of light. It is the absence into which light pierces the walls of the void and the result is rejoicing.
What is life like in the Absent Void? The passage tells us it is a dark walk, a death walk, and it is a deafening walk of war.
A. It is a dark walk by definition. It is dark to the mystery to dark to morality. When we are in darkness we are blinded to reality. In fact, just a few minutes ago, in my house, I ran into a wall I did not see and bumped my head. I do not make the best decisions in the dark.
B. It is a death walk. In the shadows of death there is little hope. People walking in darkness experience a despair that is deathly and death is the common denominator of humanity. If there is no intervention of life, death is our permanent outcome and we experience some of it in the shadows here and now.
C. It is a deafening walk. The KJV translation of v. 5 refers to confused noise in battle. There is so much noise that the ears are deafened to any clear direction. Have you not been deafened by the cacophonies of dissonant battle cries around you so that nothing makes sense at all?
Another way of looking at the void is to create an acronym of it.
It is a V- Vicious darkness.
It is an O- Oppressive darkness.
It is an I - Insidious darkness.
It is a D - Deep darkness, but it can be overcome.
To follow Jesus truly, we must be willing to be present in the absence.
In the Absent Void of darkness comes the ACTIVE VOICE of light.
The ACTIVE VOICE
Light simply and powerfully penetrates darkness and that is that! He comes as a child. He comes to be seen. He comes to break the yoke of oppression. He comes to rule with justice and truth. He speaks through light and that light, according to John 1, is the Light of men. Let's look and word, voice.
A. First, it is V - VICARIOUS by nature. The word is from Latin, vicārius and it means "substituting." The government, which is a heavy weight, lands on His shoulders. He takes on our pain, suffering, and bonds to break them. He enters in to our life with us. Are we willing, as His representatives, to enter into the dark places and bear the suffering of the world to speak and to be?
B. Second, it is O - It is OBVIOUS - it is no secret coming when He enters a space. There is an obvious contrast between light and darkness and people notice. If we are the light of the world in Him, how obvious is our presence? Do we bring light to darkness just by being their? Does the voice of our lives speak as He did?
I - Third, it is I -It in INVASIVE. Light invades the darkness and He speaks to powers and systems, dismantles the weapon of destruction, liberates the captives, and sets up His rule, not as a mighty warrior, though He is capable, but as a child. Are we willing to be the childlike representatives of His Kingdom to light and speak with a gentle, yet powerful voice the confusion of the battles in our midst?
C - Fourth, it is C - a COMFORTING voice. He is the counselor, comforter, one who walks beside us as Prince of Peace. People do not necessarily understand this peace because it comes as incarnation. The message of the gospel is that those who are redeemed have this Comforter to come and live inside us, transforming the darkness of our interior lives into habitations of peace, joy, light, love, and the Christ Himself who can live in us, with us, and through us. What sort of comforting presence brings peace to the turmoil around us, through us as Jesus lives out His life and speaks His voice through us?
D - Fifth, it is an E - ETERNAL voice. There is no end to His Kingdom. The kingdom of darkness will cease, but the Kingdom of God is forever, embodied in a Child - a child in a manger in Bethlehem. His first whimper was a welcome sound for in His humanity, we discover divinity. He is our connection to eternity. Everything about this baby's life is God speaking to us, calling us, inviting us, living among us, tasting death for us, rising to raise us, and living forever within us. To come to Him like the shepherd and wise men, to welcome Him like Mary and Joseph, to worship Him, and to receive Him and follow Him is life itself and life eternal. It is also the beginning of our mission in the world to carry His presence into the darkness.