Our final vision from Isaiah is that of a great light being brought into the world by the birth of a child. This prophecy, too, was taken later as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, God incarnate – that is: God in human form. We celebrate Christmas with the lighting of candles, lighting our Christmas trees and sometimes even festooning our front gardens with lights.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined… The yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken… For a child has been born for us, a son given to us, authority rests upon his shoulders: and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2-4 & 6).
What is this ‘light’? It seems to be again ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding’ that we thought about last week (Isaiah 11:2), but also a light shining into us bringing joy, hope and new life. Jesus said: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). He also said: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30). The word ‘easy’ usually found in our translations of this text can be confusing as following Jesus is often a challenge. Theologians and linguists have argued about the word, but the analysis offered by Jeremy Taylor the Divine in the seventeenth century is helpful. He wrote: ‘Christ’s yoke is like feathers to a bird; not loads, but helps to motion’.
And how is the child described? ‘He is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’. Counsellor – he helps us to follow the Lord’s teachings; Mighty God – he has the power to do all things; Everlasting Father – he is always there for us like a loving parent; Prince of Peace – his is a kingdom where peace and justice are found. Here is a short prayer which reflects these thoughts:
Lord Jesus, help us to see your light and to share it with our friends and neighbours so that we may all feel the joy of your promise of peace. Amen.