from the sermon series: The Politics of Jesus newyorkcovenant.com
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. 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—
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
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.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Zebulun and Naphtali on the northeast border of Galilee were the first to suffer from the Assyrian invasion marking the beginning of dark days for Israel. But one day the nation of Israel, the people of Israel would be honored by Galilee by someone people would call the man from Galilee. These were dark days for God’s people. Since the Assyrian invasion all the way through the Persian Empire’s control over God’s people and all the way up until the Roman Empire’s political domination over Israel, Israel was living in dark times. When we deny the reality of the system into which Jesus was born or when we describe the predicament of His birth like it has no parallel to what many people in this country are born into today, we have denied the relevance and the power of our Savior’s testimony. We have denied its undeniable relevance. We have denied the prophetic voice of our Savior’s birth and life.
When most American Christians read the Christmas story, when they think about the Christmas story I what find is that they think about Jesus’ situation in isolation. There is this cognitive dissonance. Meaning, they have separated themselves in a vast way from playing any part in the racist and oppressive governmental system in which we are now living. They would never make a direct correlation between their vote for president and the oppressive system in which Jesus was subjected. They could see Jesus as an “other” and highly value Him back then but, in some insanely racist way, not value the undocumented immigrant as the “other” of today. Not paralleling the crucifixions of that day to the government sanctioned murders of black and brown people today.
Through Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was both a suffering Messiah and is reigning king. The biblical prophets were not even sure how these two things, these two roles of the Messiah’s ministry would come together, would co-exist. In a way, that much of our struggle today with Jesus. How do we make Jesus king and embrace the suffering that goes along with following Him? Some of us have decided to embrace the what we define as the Kingdom of God and deny that suffering is still a part of a walk with Christ. For us worldly success is a sign of blessings because that’s what a kingdom should represent. But worldly success in God’s kingdom is not tied to money, it’s tied to power. It’s tied to a certain kind of power. It’s the kind of power that reaches out and touches people in their wounded places and heals them even though it can’t always be seen by the naked eye. It’s the kind of power gathers people in their neighborhoods, towns and cities throughout this world to worship on the first day of the week, and give even out of their poverty to a Savior they cannot see. It’s the kind of power that brandishes no gun, no nuclear power, no threat of violence, no belligerent tactics and yet can supersede every political system, and can knock down every governmental tyrant. Because of Jesus, that kind of power is always connected to suffering. Because of Jesus, that kind of power is always birthed through suffering. Jesus, born under the political tyranny of Rome and subjugated by their appointed king of the Jews, Herod. Jesus, birthed into a system of taxation without representation for His people. Jesus, born at the time of 2,000 simultaneous crucifixions, born during a time of massive intimidation, where for days they left those bodies posted on wood in the Galilean city of Sepphoris as punishment for rebelling against the empire. The suffering didn’t begin on the cross for Jesus, the suffering began for Jesus the day He was born into the world.
And it wasn’t just his parents who suffered, who couldn’t find an inn, who had to deal with the shame society put on them for being poor and a minority. Their whole people, were suffering and had been suffering for years upon years, from generation to generation, from slavery to Jim Crow, from mass incarcerations to probation. And Jesus the Messiah, Jesus our Lord, Jesus our King chose to enter into this suffering. How do we not choose to enter into this suffering to meet people where they are in the bowls of this society and bring hope to the world, and bring the hope of the world? How do we not choose to enter into the darkness of the world and bring the light of Christ, the hope of glory, the hope of a new day dawning? That’s what Isaiah was prophesying–that our Christ would come and enter into this suffering, this darkness.
This is all about political oppression. This is not about you, me and my Christmas tree. This is about a people that have been subjected to darkness by the powers of their colonizer. This is about emancipation. This is about freedom come. This is about a forthcoming uprising. This is about a movement. This is about a leader. Someone who leads this uprising; someone who heads a revolt. This leader is God Himself.
We are not supposed to wait for another Martin Luther King, Jr. to come. Why are we going to pray for another king when we’ve got the King? We don’t need another Malcolm when we’ve got the Messiah. We don’t need another Marcus Garvey when we’ve got a Mighty God. Three wise men came to Him at His birth and brought gold, frankincense and myrrh, to honor this Mighty God, this King of the nation of God’s people. Jesus is truly all that we need. And Jesus brings with Him His own government, He brings His own rule, and we are free under His rule. Worldly rulers typically ascend to keep you bound, they want to control you. But Jesus wants to free you.
What we see in Isaiah 9 are military exploits. This is military language. This is the language of uprisings. This is the language of political movements. This is the real meaning of Christmas—an uprising, a revolt, a resistance, an unrest, a usurping, a takeover, a coup d’état, a revolution. The birth of Jesus calls us to political action. Will you rise to the occasion and celebration of His birth?