Peace is Coming
Good News Translation
2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. 3 You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. 4 For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders. You have defeated the nation that oppressed and exploited your people, just as you defeated the army of Midian long ago. 5 The boots of the invading army and all their bloodstained clothing will be destroyed by fire. 6 A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” 7 His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David's successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time.
He was born into a Catholic family in May, 1920 in Poland. He was the youngest by 13 years of three children. As a young boy he was quite athletic. At the age of 18, he moved to Krakow with his father, Karol where he enrolled in the university. While in school, he performed with theatrical groups and worked as a playwright. He discovered a talent for languages, learning as many as 12. After his father’s death in 1942, the young man decided to study for the priesthood into which he was ordained in 1946.
He completed his second doctorate in 1953 while serving a parish in Krakow. He regularly had groups of students join him for hiking, skiing, bicycling, camping, kayaking, and an outdoor mass followed by theological discussion. The man rose up the ranks to Bishop and, eventually Cardinal. He was known for living a simple life. In August, 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected the 264th Pope of the Catholic church.
Pope John Paul II was known as the “people’s pope.” He wasn’t afraid to break tradition in the church, addressing contemporary issues whenever he thought appropriate. Pope John Paul traveled extensively. Photos of him in the pope mobile as he waved to the throngs around him filled the news. His popularity stemmed from his ability to make connections with people, his practical faith, and his visibility. He was considered a real person, someone people wanted to be around.
Real matters to us. Our experiences in the world define who we are. The connections we make with others impact who we are and who we will become. Places we go and things we do broaden our horizons. Experiences change our perspective and how we interact with the real.
Consider the difference between looking at pictures of ocean beaches vs sitting on the sand wiggling our toes and watching the waves break on the shore. Watching a baseball game on TV vs walking into the stadium, seeing the vibrant colors, and hearing the crowd in our ears. Looking at photos of a grandchild vs holding her in your arms. Seeing the news of the devastation from a hurricane vs walking among the destroyed homes and talking/walking with those who lost everything or experiencing the hurricane and its aftermath. The experiences of the real impact how we see pictures of that experience.
Because we live in a real world we want and need a real God. More than the one we believe in and trust but seems far away. One we can touch and be touched by. A God who is personal, who knows what it is like to be us, to be me. One who brings hope and peace.
The people of Isaiah’s time were no different. Their world was in chaos. The Assyrian empire was expanding while the Israelites reach was declining. The people could see the writing on the wall – Assyria would soon take over and they would lose all they had. The people knew the stories of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and other ancestors who had firsthand experiences of God. At the same time, they wondered if God was even aware of their existence. Yes, they knew the promises about having the land and that a descendant of David would always sit on his throne. Now they found these difficult to believe. They wondered if God knew of their suffering or even cared.
In the midst of their devastation Isaiah brings a message from God – “The Lord saves.” God has not forgotten them. God cares about them. God will rescue them at the right time, but the time ahead will be difficult. Their choices have consequences. In Isaiah, the people had a real living, breathing person who spoke of God’s concern for them.
Did they like all that Isaiah had to say, all that God said through him? No. A prophet was often unwelcomed among his own people and so was his message. The people listened to his words with skepticism while cringing at words they knew to be true. The prophet of the Lord told them God hadn’t forgotten them.
In chapter 9 of Isaiah, we read the prophet’s words of hope and peace. God had a bigger plan; one they couldn’t understand at that time. But God’s promise wouldn’t prevent what was coming. God’s promise was to bring them back to their homes, to save them. The message was that hope and peace were on the horizon.
The prophet’s words were for the people of that time and place as well as for a future time and place. He spoke to their situation. The salvation from exile. The child who would be a descendant of David and a future king. All of these promises pointed to God. Promises that were not far off.
We have the advantage of hindsight. We look at Isaiah’s words already knowing who the child was and would become. We connect these words to Jesus, the promised Messiah who is God. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Names that are familiar to us and we sing in Christmas carols. For us, Jesus represents not only God in the heavens, but God the man, God who became flesh. The real God the people could see, hear, touch, and feel. The one who they could experience in their world. An experience that changed their and our perspective of God in our life.
Jesus was the real God who came to earth to become one of us. To experience first-hand what we go through. Our joys and suffering, our expectations and dashed hopes. Jesus showed us God’s love and compassion, God’s care and concern, fulfilling the promise Isaiah spoke of long ago. Jesus brings the message of hope and peace to life.