REV. STEPHEN MCKINNEY-WHITAKER • PASTORDecember 24, 2020
I love to read the books of the prophets in the Old Testament because they are God’s messages for a hurting and broken world. They instruct us how to live and how to do better, but they also share words of hope, healing, comfort, and love. I need to hear one of those messages, especially this year, so I’ve turned to the prophet Isaiah.
One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 40, “Comfort, Comfort Ye my people!” In this passage God instructs the prophet to get up to a high mountain, to lift up his voice and say to those who are suffering, rest assured, “Here is your God. God is right here and has been here all along. You are not alone.”
The prophet addresses suffering people. They feel like they’ve been wandering in the dark, abandoned by God, and forgotten by the world. These people who long to hear some good news are given a prophet who climbs a mountain and looks out over the mass of suffering people and says, “Here is your God.”
We are the prophets today. We are the ones called to “Go tell it on a mountain” and proclaim the presence of a loving, steadfast God.
Last Saturday, we premiered this year’s Christmas musical offering, “Tis the Season: Music and Memories.” One of the songs we featured was a favorite from last year’s concert, “The Dream Isaiah Saw.”
The dream refers to the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God’s creation restored to peace and harmony through the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1-5). It is the panoramic view of the future Messianic Kingdom. The song comes from a poem by Thomas H. Troeger, “Lion and Oxen Will Sleep in the Hay.” The composer Glenn Rudolph began to set this poem to music toward the end of July 2001. Nineteen days after September 11, he completed this choral work. It captures the contrast of the chaotic world we live in with Isaiah’s dream calling for us to “walk in the light of the Lord.”
Here is an excerpt of the poem:
Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the violence concealed
deep in the heart and in systems of gain,
ripe for the judgement the Lord will ordain.
Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
justice purifying law.
Nature reordered to match God’s intent,
nations obeying the call to repent,
all of creation completely restored,
filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.
This is why we proclaim the prophetic message of hope, healing, comfort, and love while these dark days surround us.
We live in what often seems like a dark, divided, and dangerous world – a world so counter to the words like hope, peace, joy and love. And yet, out of faith, out of conviction, and out of courage, we defy this darkness and proclaim that love has come: a light in the darkness. We proclaim the dream Isaiah saw, the dream Christ promised, and the dream Christ will ultimately fulfill.
We proclaim this good news and we wait, just as our mothers and fathers waited. We wait in the dark, we watch for the light. Each year, as the days grow short and the nights dark, as the years turn and turn again and though it strains our collective memory to do so, we remember. We remember that God came to us and lived among us, a peasant born to a Palestinian virgin, an itinerant preacher hated by the religious and executed by the powerful. We remember, and we wait for his return. But we will not wait in silence because the world needs to hear the promise of the light, a son, and a savior.
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)