December 24, 2017

When Light and Hope Are Born

I have become enamored with babies. I must be getting old and soppy or something because every time I see a baby I cannot resist going up to the mother and asking how old the child is. Of course, no mother is unproud. They are proud of what God has produced through them. And it’s an amazing thing. Babies are amazing because of the message they give.

It was around 4 o’clock in the morning on Dec. 17, 1969, when my dear wife, lying beside me in the bed, said, “I think my water broke.”

We got out of bed and went down to a little hospital in cold Alberta, Canada. I was with Donna the entire time until they thought the baby was going to be born. In those days, that was the time the father left the delivery room.

I was so nervous. I went to the waiting room adjacent to the delivery room, and I thought I was being steady and bold and brave. Then I overheard the doctor say to my wife, “Bear down.” When she bore down, I ran. I went out into the hospital lobby and crumpled into a chair.

About an hour after my daughter was born, I walked into the room where Donna was lying and held that little baby in my arms for the first time. My life was changed. Any of you who have had that experience know that babies radically transform our lives.

Of Warnings, Destruction, and Hope

In Isaiah 8, the Lord gives a command to the prophet: “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz,” as witnessed by Zechariah and a priest named Uriah. This is the God-given name of Isaiah’s son. Before the boy will know how to speak, God tells Isaiah that the people will have rejected Him and destruction is brought upon them (Isa. 8:1-18).

There were reasons that God called for the birth of this child. Those reasons all focus upon the rebellion of the people. Because the people had rejected the gentle flowing streams of Shiloah and rejoiced over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, the Lord brought a mighty flood of waters with the Euphrates, saying, “The flood will be so extensive that it “will cover the breadth of your land” (verse 8, NIV). It was a warning: “Listen all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered. Prepare for battle and be shattered. Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted. Propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (verses 9-10).

Some fascinating things happen in this passage of Scripture. Isaiah says, “For the Lord spoke to me, a strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy” (verse 12). Fascinating. God tells Isaiah that He is the One to dread. And Isaiah says that he will wait on the Lord, and put his trust in Him. “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (verses 20-22).

What an interesting introduction—with God talking to His people—to the coming Messiah! And how we humans have gone a long way away from Him! If there is one characteristic that I appreciate more than any other about God, it is persistence, perseverance. God does not give up. He does not stop.

Isaiah foreshadows the hope that will come: “In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan — The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isa. 9:1-2).

On those living in the shadow of death, a Light has come. We could impose those final verses of chapter 8 on what is happening in the world today. There is huge distress in our world. We have problems with North Korea, the Middle East, in our lands — there are problems around the world.

We are people walking in darkness, but the Great Light comes.

Light and Hope Are Born

Let’s skip over to Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Inserted into the life of those who are confused and weary, those who do not know which way to turn, for those times of great confusion, God gives to us a Son, a Wonderful Counselor. A mighty God for those who are powerless, for those who feel bereft and alone. There is a mighty warrior who has been given to us through the birth of a Son, to those who are fatherless.

I could spend the next week here and still not be finished listening if everyone would unload their minds and share what challenges each is having. But into that context of our own confusion, our own weariness, intellectually and mentally and physically and socially and spiritually, God gives a little Baby who will bring us peace, and who does bring us peace. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” How wonderful babies are — how wonderful is God’s own Son!

And as we enter into the final days of 2017, that little Baby needs to be in your heart and in your mind. And amid whatever it is that you think and who you are, little child in Christ, I pray you have the Christ Child in your heart.

Daniel R. Jackson is president of the North-American Division church region of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.