I don’t know about you…but sometimes these days seem pretty dark. And I’m not talking about the sun setting at 4:00. Sometimes…between the pandemic and the racism and the political animosity that is rampant….these days seem dark. And as more and more people battle mental health issues… trying to keep their head above water while anxiety and depression and other issues threaten to pull them under…you get to wondering when someone will turn the light on. When will we see clearly? When will the chaos without and within be illuminated ..when will it ever make sense?
Isaiah is writing to people who feel that way. People who have experienced trauma and injustice in their lives…but even more so, people who have experienced generations of trauma and injustice. Isaiah is writing to the folks in Northern Israel…who have spent generations, now, under the rule of the Assyrian Empire. Their land has been stolen. They have been enslaved. They have been killed off. Their families have been torn apart. In many ways….Isaiah is writing to the Native Americans…the African Americans…in our own day and age…isn’t he? Land stolen. Enslaved. Killed off. Families torn apart. Facing ongoing injustice. I mean, just this past year has brought the news of 1000s of unmarked graves of Native American Children who were taken from their parents and brought to residential schools…a reminder of the unbelievable horrors inflicted on the Native people of these lands when Europeans invaded. And also this year, we’ve begun to learn about the over 5700 Native women and girls who have gone missing in the past five years…5700…with little media attention or concern. Nobody cares. We have been reminded over and over again…how our justice system values white lives. so very differently than the lives of people of color. On one hand, we see people not wanting to throw away a young white man’s life because he foolishly sought out violence in an act of vigilantism and ended up committing murder…..but on the other hand, in thousands of other circumstances, having no problem tossing young black men in jail for a lifetime or even killing them for petty crimes…or for simply being in the wrong place, looking the wrong way, saying the wrong thing.
Isaiah is writing to give hope to the people of Israel, who live under Assyrian rule where their lives simply do not matter. And when we hear it today…we should recognize it as a word of hope and promise for those who have been devalued and ignored in our own nations and communities today. Those folks who are wondering when the light will come on…when people will see clearly and the chaos will end. And Isaiah says to them…on YOU a light has shined. You who walk in deep darkness…. God’s light shines on you. God SEES clearly.
Isaiah isn’t just singing “The Sun will come out tomorrow”…..he is claiming God’s sovereignty…that the rulers and principalities of this world…the systems of injustice…will not stand. Their darkness melts under God’s light. They may think they have won the day, but they are not the final authority. God’s kingdom is forever. And that kingdom comes to us in Jesus…a trouble making young middle eastern man from a podunk town and a poor family. Jesus….Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Into the midst of this messy world — where injustice and cruelty and anger seem to be everywhere we look — Jesus comes. The light shines. We proclaim that Jesus is the light of the world…the light NO darkness can overcome. And today…in our world, in our nation, in our community….Jesus is the light that dispels the darkness….Jesus is the light that shows the way. Jesus is the light that brings new possibilities into being out of nothing, like the first light of creation….Jesus is the light that finds a way to bring life out of death and redemption out of suffering and joy out of despair.
Jesus is the light….the light that shines in our midst, like a beacon of hope …in every act of justice and healing…in every act of grace and reconciliation.
This is Jesus’ passion. His zeal. The zeal of the Lord of hosts, Isaiah says, is to establish and uphold a kingdom of peace marked by justice and righteousness. That is Jesus’ passion…and that passion is the light that cannot be extinguished…no matter how hard the powers that be try to put it out. Jesus’ love for ALL people will win the day.
Isaiah trusts that God cannot be dethroned by the judges and kings and presidents and rulers of this world. God is the creator of all…and God’s light and love will persist and prevail, no matter what darkness we find ourselves in. That is the good news for those who live under injustice….God will win and even in the midst of the chaos, they can dare to have joy, trusting God …who is their everlasting father.
Now, many of us are not victims of the massive societal injustices of our nation….but at the same time…many of us still walk in darkness. Depression and anxiety seem to be rampant these days…and so many of us are walking in a deep darkness inside our own minds and hearts. And in that darkness, so often…when things are bleakest…we can’t see the way forward. We can’t see how anything we do will make a difference. The problems seem so huge and we feel so small…and we don’t know how to be hopeful when the world seems so messed up….or when our lives get so messed up.
Friends, Isaiah is talking to you, too. On you, too, God’s light shines. God sees you clearly. All of you. All the tangled chaos inside you…and God’s light shines on you. In you. In your deep darkness. If you close your eyes, you can picture it. The warm light of God, probing into every corner of you. Nothing is hidden.. I invite you to do that some time…in a quiet space, alone. Close your eyes and feel God’s light, moving through you, all of you, every atom of you. You are known. You are seen. You are made up of the dust and breath of creation. You are beloved…and no darkness can keep God out.
May we trust in the light of God. Trust in the light of God revealed in Creation — in critters and flowers…in rivers and forests…in atoms and in galaxies. May we trust in the light of God — persistent in humanity…a light of love and mercy and justice that cannot ever be fully extinguished…that crops up even in the darkest ages. May we trust in the light of God, in Jesus…the light of the world….who is the one who knows us all and saves us all…the light that pierces the darkness. May we trust in the light of God….and with thanksgiving…may we let that light shine. Amen.