One of my favourite films is Batman the Dark Knight, in that film Batman battles with the forces of evil and crime in Gotham City, seemingly alone against a vast array of enemies lined up against him. Harvey Dent at one point says to Bruce Wayne this “The night is darkest just before dawn”. As we turn and look and Isaiah 9v6 this morning you could apply that very modern saying to this situation. This morning we are going to simply look at this verse under those headings.
(2)”The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned”
It is a bleak description of what life in like in Judah. Just glance up at the end of chapter 8 and you’ll see that it isn’t a throw away line, the words there are so bleak; distress, hungry, famished, darkness, fearful gloom, utter darkness. Israel is in pitch blackness.
Ch1-7 catalogue some of that blackness as God describes what he has seen in his people; meaningless offerings, rampant injustice, corrupt rulers, superstition, divination, idolatry, arrogance, parading of their sins, drunkenness and alcoholism, and a refusal to trust in God rather than trust in political alliances. And in the background lurk the superpower of the day, Assyria who look covetously at Judah, like a vulture just bidding their time.
It is a bleak hopeless picture. It is a thick darkness so dark that it’s as if you can feel it. There is no hope. As you read these opening chapters it is so depressing, it seems so hopeless. All is darkness.
But it is not an isolated description, in fact darkness is used throughout the bible to describe a world, or an individual who lives life without knowing God. Darkness comes into the world from the moment Adam and Eve decide that actually we can decide right and wrong for ourselves without reference to God, and it has continued that way ever since.
Perhaps you are sat here this morning and you are saying so you are saying I am in darkness? Yes, that is what the bible says. You may make good decisions but you don’t do so for good motives, often the motives are dark – they are self interested. Life lived without knowing God is life lived in darkness, without seeing the true picture of what life is really like or really about. Keep listening because in a minute we are going to talk about the light.
Maybe you are here this morning and you feel that darkness at the moment and it is sucking your hope. You see your faith mocked in the media, derided on TV, you face opposition at work and in your family. Darkness, and it feels so thick that sometimes you begin to lose your grip on your hope. Or maybe this morning it is bereavement or fear that is that darkness that threatens to overwhelm you, there was certainly lots of that around in Judah. Maybe Christmas will bring home the loss of a loved one or the fear that you may lose a loved one, and the darkness of the world we live in so infected with sin and all its attendant effects threatens your fear. You need to listen to this hope.
It is against this bleak, bleak background that Isaiah reveals the light.
Notice how he describes the light, this is no flickering feeble candle, or single beam torch which doesn’t dispel the darkness but just makes you more aware of the small beams feebleness. It is a great light, it is like the sun rising at dawn as darkness flees before it, this is a light that drives away the thick cloying darkness.
And look at what this light brings with it (3-5) it brings joy to a nation that is now secure, it brings food to those who before were famished, it brings the defeat of their enemies and the threats they faced. This is a total rescue, this is not a temporary respite, this is a new kingdom, this is a hope to hold on to in the bleakness. It is a total reversal of the hopelessness, this is a hope to believe in.
What is this hope? How does (6) start? “For”, in other words all these things will happen because “to us a child is born, to us a son is given”
The hope for God’s people is not in a new superpower or alliance, it is not in the King suddenly coming to his senses the hope is in a child who is to be born. The hope is in Jesus God’s long promised King.
And notice that this is a child that is born, he is human born in the same way as other babies except that he is born of a virgin (c/f Ch7) in a stable in Bethlehem. Just as an aside some of you may be thinking how can anyone be born of a virgin? – all it takes for the virgin birth is for God to exist, if God exists and he is God by nature a virgin giving birth, though a miracle to us, is not a big deal to him.
Jesus is God’s long promised king he leaves all the splendour of heaven and steps down onto earth, he is born, he eats, he cries, he sleeps, he grows, he experiences all the darkness and all the struggles of living in the world we live in.
John 1v5-14. John picks up on Isaiah’s language of Son and Darkness, and says it is Jesus, and he gives us John the Baptist as a witness that Jesus is the light, he is this child, he is this Son.
Our hope is in the Son of God incarnate, it is in Jesus who is for us, who comes to earth because he is for us, who lives for us, and who dies for us, and is resurrected for us, and who now reigns at his father’s side and is for us. We could never get out of the darkness ourselves, we need a light to come.
But notice something else he comes born as a child, but he also is “a son is given.” He is the descendant of David, the ruler in the line of David who takes the throne of David and will rule for ever. But he is also given, God gives his Son to a world that is in darkness, that has rejected him and rebelled against him and forgotten him and deliberately turned its back on him. To such a world God gives his Son.
Christmas really is all about giving. That’s a hard thing to teach our children isn’t it, you tell them that and they think ‘Yeah Right! That’s just because you don’t get good presents!’ But Christmas is when we remember God giving his Son to a world utterly undeserving of such a gift, in fact deserving of exactly the opposite.
John picks this up again in 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Do you see the love and grace and goodness of God? Christmas is about true giving!
How do you know how God feels about you? Do you listen to TV programmes like the Simpsons and others which say you can judge how God feels about you based on how life is going. If things are going badly then God is angry with you if you are being blessed then God loves you. Don’t listen to that, listen to Isaiah – God loves you so much he sends his son into the world for you not because you were good or nice, but because you are or were in darkness and he wants to save you.
We are more wicked than we ever realised – we are in darkness, but we are more loved by God than we have ever dreamed – he sends his Son to save us. In Jesus God offers his Son to us, just like any present you are offered the question is will you accept him? Will you put your trust in him? Do you recognise that you live in darkness and need the light, that you make decisions but can’t seem to see clearly how and why you are making them? This Christmas God says accept the greatest gift I give to you.
We need to realise again the nature of the good news of the gospel, in Jesus God breaks into the world and starts overturning, driving out the darkness one life at a time. Creating communities of hope, beacons of light in the darkness where the presence of Jesus lives on by his Holy Spirit, a community that is called to light up the darkness.
It is why as Christians we love Christmas, its why we celebrate, its why we can never be bah humbug about Christmas. It is a reminder of our hope, our light coming into darkness, of salvation gifted to us by God in Jesus. And it points us to a day when the light will not only be in our hearts but when the sun will rise and sin and darkness flee away never to be seen again.