The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2a)
These are the opening words from the prophet Isaiah that we have had read tonight
They are words of hope for a people long ago
But for us – tonight – they are the announcement – the declaration of the greatest significance that the world have ever seen
For us… we declare that God… the light of the world… has come amoung us
Good evening everyone and welcome … and congratulations
I will say more about the congratulations as we go along
For those that don’t know me, I am The Reverend Paul Tinker, the senior minister here at Farringdon – as such – it is my duty and great joy to welcome each and every one of you
This service, unlike our Sunday morning service, where we have Sunday School each week, the children will be in the service the whole time
So don’t worry about kids being kids… that is their job
And Christmas is the most exciting time of the year
And most importantly in God’s holy church ‘all are welcome’
Tonight, beyond the excitement of Santa Claus soon to make his arrival,
Beyond the all the preparations of gift buying and wrapping and house cleaning and decorating,
Beyond all the food shopping and cooking … or beyond all preparations for travel
We have something incredible to announce and celebrate
We declare that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2a)
For many this is a familiar message – whether that is from Handel’s Messiah or the fact that this scripture is often read each and every Christmas
But don’t let that familiarity dampen the shear incredible – awesome – glorious – stupendous news that it is
It is nothing less than God coming to us - Emmanuel
“What has come into being 4in him… was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness (John1:3b-5a)
Isaiah prophesied about it… and John report it – Light in the darkness
The news is so important that the Prophet Isaiah over 27 hundred years ago declared it many different ways with a variety of metaphors so that each person might connect to it, maybe each in our own special way
In its simplest form it is: Light in the darkness – in a land of deep darkness… Light…
For others it is the message of growth and birth - You have multiplied the nation…
Others – it is JOY… increased joy – like the joy found during the most plentiful time of the year – the joy of the harvest…
Others still – it is a message of RELEASE – release from the burdens of life – the yoke associated with farming, the bar across one’s shoulders – or the rod of their oppressor – all these devices of control, oppression and burden are… broken…
Finally for others, that are most familiar with the life of war and conflict - all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire
This last image reminds be of the song ‘Thrasher’ by from Neil Young – were he writes “Burned my credit card for fuel”
Images of casting–off that the represents the important symbols of this world, and moving on towards a better way – a way of freedom
Neil continues “They were just dead weight to me”
And what is this all about… what is this light in darkness – this growth and birth – this joy – this release – this casting off – and this freedom
It is about the most surprising news of all… – it is about the birth of a fragile baby
But of course no ordinary baby – for this child will be called…
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, 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 (Isaiah 9:6b-7a)
This Child is none other than God in the flesh – Emmanuel – God amongst us
And so congratulations!
Why congratulations, you may ask… well because … a child has been born for us
When I ask the question "Who's birthday is it?"
The answer is supposed to be obvious - it's Jesus' birthday, of course.
At least that's what one might think until you read those two words from the Prophet Isaiah so many years ago – “for us” - or listen to the Prologue to John's Gospel.
John writes: "He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood… or of the will of the flesh… or of the will of man…, but of God" (John 1:10-13)
Did you hear that? "To all who receive him, he gave power to become children of God."
"Whose birthday is it?"
As it turns out, St. John seems to think...that it's our birthday.
And so at the heart of all the hymns and carols, at the center of all the celebration and gifts, and behind all the lights and wreaths, stands this one promise
That because of Christ and his incarnation, God regards us forever as God's own beloved child.
WE become children of God!!!!
We all are made one with God… as God is born as one of us
And so as we celebrate the birth of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [the] Prince of Peace
So… as we are one with each other… and with the Lord – on this, the birthday of Jesus
It is also “for us” the birthday for all…
To that …I say congratulations!
To all who receive him, [Jesus] gave [us the] power to become children of God