Advent: The songs of Christmas-week 1- Isaiah’s song
Study: Revd. Malcolm Raby
Reading: Isaiah 9 v. 1, 2, 6, 7 and 2 Samuel 7 v. 11b-16
Sermon Date: December 2nd
We have just begun the season of “Advent”
What does this season mean
(a) To you and your family, (b) To the people of Ashtead, (c) To the Christian Church?
The following notes are for the guidance of leaders and need not be read out to the group.
ADVENT comes from the Latin ADVENTUS (= “coming”) which is a translation of the Greek PAROUSIA. It was not until the 6th century that Advent was linked to the coming of Christ, but not his birth at Bethlehem, rather his Second Coming as Judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that Advent was explicitly linked to the birth of Jesus.
Today, Advent marks the start of a new church year, with 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Advent symbolizes the situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2.17) as God’s people wait expectantly for Christ to return in glory and bring in a “new heaven and a new earth”. We look back to celebrate Christ’s first coming and then look forward in eager expectation for his Second Coming. The hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel” attempts to sum this up.
The challenge we all face is to keep these deep thoughts in the forefront of our lives in the midst of all the preparations that have to be made for the Christmas season.
“When the church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his Second Coming.”
Please do not slavishly follow these notes, but use them as you feel best suits your group
Please read together: Isaiah 9 verses 1, 2, 6, 7 and 2 Samuel verses 11b-16
We live in a world consumed with the desire for peace and a fear of war (especially the nuclear threat). When we look out on the world it is easy to feel a sense of gloom and despair. The Middle East is a constant trouble spot and for many sums up the almost impossible challenge of finding “peace” in the world. “The problem is still the presence of evil. It sets brother against brother, and nation against nation. Ultimately, the world’s gloom and despair links to spiritual darkness.”
Q.1 Do you agree with this conclusion?
In Chapter 8, there is a prophecy of war and destruction, darkness and gloom. God’s people in Judah are going to be overwhelmed by their enemy and many will be destroyed. Chapter 9 reminds them of the disaster that has already fallen on the northern kingdom of Israel. BUT between these terrible prophecies there is a beam of light (verses 1, 2, 6, 7) Prophecies from Isaiah used at Christmas time tend to talk about light, hope and salvation (things we want to hear) but we must not forget that Isaiah spoke more about gloom than about hope and more about disaster than about salvation.
At this time there was the hope that God would, in some way, intervene. There would be a “Day of the Lord” when God would defeat the enemies of Israel and Judah and bring about a reign of peace. But many prophets, like Amos, saw this “Day of the Lord” about suffering and punishment, not joy and hope. In Isaiah we find a mix of the two – disaster, but the possibility of peace; gloom but with a gleam of light; despair but with a glimmer of hope.
Q.2 In what way do you see Isaiah’s message? Disaster or Peace? Despair or Hope? Hope after Disaster?
Found in chapter 8, the prophet Isaiah now in chapter 9 gives a prophecy about the Messiah - “Anointed One”- the glorious coming King. In one sense every king anointed in Jerusalem as a descendant of David would be called a “messiah”, but Scripture tells how ultimately a son of David (the Messiah) would come, and that prophecy was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, some seven centuries after this prophecy. It is this Messianic prophecy which holds out our hope for peace and righteousness in the world.
Q.3 How much do you agree with this analysis of the opening verses of Isaiah?
The opening verses of Isaiah 9 speak of peace coming with the dawn of the Messianic Age. There will come a time when there will be no more anguish. In the past the Lord humbled the lands of Zebulun and Napthali (Galilee) but in the future they will be honoured; Jesus ministered in Galilee. Note that Isaiah writes in the past tense as if this has already happened. He believed it had been shown to him by God and so was certain to happen, even though it had not at that time been worked out. Light was to shine on a people walking in darkness and this began with the coming of Jesus, bringing grace, truth and the promise of peace.
Q.4 In what ways so we see the promise working in the world today? Or is it something which is still to come?
With the coming of Jesus into the world this era of peace and restoration has begun; transformation is taking place as we see the kingdom of God at work in many different ways throughout the world. However, this transformation will only be completed when Jesus returns again.
Egyptian kings/Pharaohs took special names when they ascended the throne – names which spoke of might, wisdom and truth. Look at the words used to describe the coming Messiah in verses 6 and 7 and consider whether Jesus, in any way, was worthy of such names.
WONDERFUL = extraordinary; surpassing; marvelous.
Jesus’ I AM sayings; acts of healing; teaching.
COUNSELLOR = one who has the wisdom to rule
Q - Do the words of Isaiah 11.2 relate to Jesus?
The way he assessed Nathaniel (John 1.48-51) Woman of Samaria (John 4.29) and (John 7.26)
Jesus claimed to be divine (John 8.58; Matthew 24.30; John 1.1-3. The one mighty God came in the flesh in Jesus
“One who directs and is lord over the ages”. By making this title refer to the Messiah = sovereign Lord over ever changing years. The one who directs eternity. Such a name belongs to God alone.
PRINCE OF PEACE
Hebrew concept of peace more than the absence of war = a condition in which all things follow their destiny undisturbed. This will ultimately lead to a new heaven and a new earth. A whole new creation!
John 14.27; 16.33
BUT note also Matthew 10.34
Jesus brought “peace with God” through his death and resurrection, and will eventually bring total peace. We await this fulfilment in our troubled world.
“As is so often the case, Jesus fulfils these ancient prophecies in a surprising way and it is through weaving light into the shade of our present world that he evokes wonder by the wisdom of his counsel (wonderful counsellor); shows the power of God in the world (mighty God); cares eternally just like a parent (everlasting father) and is the source of all well-being for God’s people (prince of peace). Jesus lived as wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father and prince of peace in the midst of our broken, despairing world, shining in the darkness and bringing hope.” (Paula Gooder)
Q.5 If this is who Jesus is, what impact should this have on our lives?
That we may use this Advent season to help us deepen our understanding of who Jesus really is.
To pray for all church activities in the coming month; that others too may come to see who Jesus really is.
Time of praise for what Jesus has done for us
Pray for individual needs among the group