(excerpt of sermon, Isaiah 9:2-7)
Do you know what person reading this prophetic text made me think of when preparing the message for tonight? That’s right, say it with me…Santa Claus. No one else had that image come to mind?:)
As I was reading this oracle from Isaiah that was written around 2,500 years ago, I was trying to make a connection to today’s context. What I read from the text is this: the Jewish people are looking for a hero. And what better hero to think about on a night like this than Santa Claus! So how would you describe Santa?
Riding on a flying sleigh with reindeer
magical powers, being able to slide down chimneys
bringing gifts and joy to the world
living in a magical location in the North Pole
he’s able to bypass the time continuum to be at every person’s house around the world
he has magical elves to help him
For all intensive purposes, Santa is a superhero! We write songs about him. We tell stories about him. We write letters to him.
And just hear me out, but this is what the prophet Isaiah and the Jewish people envisioned when they were forced from their homes, conquered by their enemies, and made slaves. The people needed a Savior; someone to come and save them. Maybe a king would come with thousands of horses and armed soldiers and rescue them. Maybe God would physically come from the heavens and wipe out the enemies just like he did in so many of the other stories of old, and then there would be peace on earth for all the people. They were looking for a superhero.
Will this person be a king, riding in on a horse-drawn chariot? Will this person have super human powers; enough to bring peace to the whole world? Will he come from some mysterious place that we have never seen or yet visited? And to be quite honest, how will this affect my daily life?
And in the Gospel of Luke, we find out the answer. In an ordinary town, on an ordinary night, a baby is born, and lies in a feeding trough, a manger, because there is no room for this young family anywhere else. This is the Savior of the world? The one who will bring peace to the nations?
If you heard this anywhere else, you would be right in being skeptical about the whole story. Why would this normal baby be considered to be the savior of the world; especially if we know that heroes and saviors are strong, powerful, and have super-human powers?
The answer… is a matter of faith. We call it the Christian faith.
Many people wanted to turn the life of Jesus into such a super hero story, with superhuman feats and magical experiences. And in many parts of the Bible, to be honest, they succeeded. But the author of this story, Luke, wanted to keep it more simple, so that God may be seen working amongst the ‘ordinary’ of life’s situations. So as we read, Mary and Joseph give birth to a baby in night. However, Luke is also clear to communicate that God is active in this story. Shepherds were there that night, watching their sheep in the darkness. And in the middle of the darkness–‘on them light has shined.’ And it was an angel, a messenger of God, saying, ‘to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’
This normal little baby is to be the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, that Isaiah prophesied about. And it took Jesus some time to figure it out. In fact, we don’t hear abut Jesus in the Bible again until he’s in his 30’s. But now it is not necessarily prophets, or shepherds, or angels who are speaking about the the Messiah, but it is Jesus himself who proclaims the community of God. And he’ll continue to live his life always sharing the Good News of God’s gracious love for the world, and spreading the message of peace to all he meets. Jesus realized that God has a plan for him.
And on one of his last nights with his friends, he will have dinner with them. And he will eat bread with them. And he will drink wine with them. And the world will realize that this is the Savior that the world has been waiting for.
God has a plan. I don’t believe Jesus knew all along that he was to serve God in the way that he did. Just as I don’t believe that each and every one of us here tonight yet fully understands how we are to serve God in our own lives. And that’s the message of this story that we celebrate tonight. God has a plan for us. Whether we are stay at home moms, wealthy executives, enjoying our retirement, students trying to make sense of the world, or even little children…God has a plan for us; as ordinary, and simple human beings as we are.
And so as we celebrate the light of the world and the birth of the Christ child. And as we share in the feast of God through the Lord’s Supper. We are reminded that we, too, are called to live in the fullness of God’s love, just as Jesus. And we celebrate a hero in our own lives and for the world, who didn’t come with magic powers or on a flying chariot, but came to this world as a simple baby, just like you and I. This is the one whom we call Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.