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Sunday, 19 November 2017

November 19, 2017

Isaiah: A Child is Born - Pentecost 24

Isaiah: A Child is Born – Pentecost

November 19, 2017

Isaiah 9:1-7


They said the due date was November 22.  That seemed pretty exciting.  That meant the baby would be born before Thanksgiving and we would have a wonderful gift to celebrate.


But almost immediately there were problems. The first doctor believed that my wife had already lost the baby.  She went to another doctor and he said the baby was still there, but there were chances the pregnancy would not last.  It did, but Sandie had terrible morning sickness, all day, for more than four months.  When she started feeling better, her doctor said there were signs that things were not going well with the pregnancy and she would need to quit working and take it easy.


When November 1st came we started to relax a bit and get excited.  It wouldn’t be long now and the baby should be okay.  When November 22 came, we were ready.  We were still ready on Thanksgiving and when December first came . . . and every day after that.


December 14th was a Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent.  I had had two services in our little church in Pell Lake that morning and we had spent a quiet afternoon.  It was time for bed when Sandie said she thought we should go to the hospital instead.  She hadn’t told me, but she’d had mild contractions all afternoon and they had become more than mild.


Burlington Memorial Hospital seemed deserted when we got there.  They checked Sandie in and it seemed like we had the maternity ward pretty much to ourselves.  No one seemed too excited about my wife’s situation and her doctor didn’t check in until 8:00 . . . and then not for long.  Labor began to get more intense all throughout the day.  Finally, around 5:00 in the afternoon they brought my wife into the delivery room.  It was a long delivery, and difficult.  Finally, at 9:00 p.m. the baby was born.


It was a boy and he was alive. He was big and he was a mess from the delivery.  The nurses were a little concerned about his condition so we only saw him briefly while the nurses took him away to do some tests and cleaned him up. Sandie needed medical attention, too.


Finally, it was almost midnight and the three of us were together in my wife’s room.   We had pictured a small, sleepy, cuddly baby.  Instead he was big and bruised and his eyes were wide open.  His dark eyes always seemed to be wide open and taking in everything around him. 


You would think we would have been repeating the words of Isaiah, “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given.”  But instead the thoughts and words seemed to be from the Christmas carol, “What child is this?”  Ever since that night the question has seemed to be appropriate, “What child is this?”


Times were difficult for the people of Israel.  The kingdom was divided and enemies were at the door.  The northern kingdom of Israel was about to be invaded and devastated.  The south would eventually fall, too.  Isaiah warned the people of the coming disaster and pointed out the errors of their ways.


But his message was not totally negative.  He wanted to bring hope.  He promised there would be light in the darkness.  There would be freedom for the oppressed.  The bloody boots and clothing of warriors would be burned as fuel for the fire.  A child will be born.  A son will be given and the government will be upon his shoulders. He will be the Prince of Peace.  (You probably hear Handel’s “Messiah” in your head.)


They must have asked, “What child is this?  Who is Isaiah talking about?”   But there was no answer.  For hundreds of years people would read the words of the prophet and wonder, “Who is he talking about? Where is the child of hope and peace?”


We should not be talking about this.  It’s too early. It’s not even Advent.  But this Isaiah lesson leads to the Christmas story. The child who fits the description Isaiah gave would be born 700 years later.   His mother would be a peasant girl named Mary.  He would be born in a stable.  And he would not meet the expectations of most people. 


We know him as a preacher, teacher and healer.  We know his a man of care and compassion.  We know him as a victim of injustice and torture.  We know him as one was killed and then raised from the dead.


And he is the Prince of Peace.  Some may ask, “Where is the peace?” Uniforms and boots are still covered in blood.  War and greed and destruction seem unchecked.  The world seems to be as uncontrolled as ever.


The peace of Jesus starts inside.  It comes when we know that we are forgiven and that we can forgive. It comes when we know that nothing can separate us from the care of God, nothing in life and not even death.  Peace comes from the message that we are loved by God, loved so much that he sent his Son to us as a child who would become a man who would promise us God’s never ending love and care.


The pressure of Christmas has begun.  “What do we need to do?  What do we need to have? What do we need to buy?”  The real question is, “What do we need to be?”  The answer is we need to be the servants of the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords. We need to share and care and give and love just as Jesus has done for us.


This year will be my son Andy’s 37 birthday and there are times when I still ask, “What child is this?” The answers are almost always surprising.  The real question is the same for all of us.  We know whose child Jesus was and is.  The question we can ask every morning when we look in the mirror needs to be, “Whose child will I be and how will I show it today?”  AMEN