Monday Matters (December 25, 2023)


A reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah (9:2-7)

2The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied exultation;[b]
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders,
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Great will be his authority,[c]
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

This year, during the season of Advent, Monday Matters will focus on readings from the prophet Isaiah, who provides great material for reflection in anticipation of Christmas.

Christmas Lights

Our Advent series, with prompts from the prophet Isaiah, spills over into the Christmas season (Merry Christmas, by the way) and continues on this holy day, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. For your consideration, a reading from Isaiah which you may have heard in church on Christmas Eve, or perhaps a reading you’ll hear today in church. We’ve reprinted that reading above.

Those who selected readings for our worship chose this vision from Isaiah for this particular day. The reading is filled with Christmas sermon material, filled with insight into the character and mission of the Messiah. For our purposes this morning, join me in reflection on the first verses, with the image of a great light shining in a land of deep darkness.

How is it that the arrival of that baby Jesus represents light shining in a world where light seems to be in rare supply? The prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18) states in this way: In him was life and the life was the light of the world. What might that light mean for you this Christmas? Let’s look at light.

Light shows us the way. Scripture is filled with stories of wilderness, people wandering aimlessly. We often do that in life. Think this Christmas morning about how Jesus shows you a way forward, what our Presiding Bishop calls the way of love.

Light reveals what is hidden, including those things that we might want to keep hidden. Jesus comes to show us, how shall we say, our growth opportunities. We don’t often see those things in ourselves (though we might see them clearly in others). Again, from John’s prologue, we read that the word made flesh came among us full of grace and truth. Both things.

Light shining can offer judgment, a clear-eyed view of the ways we fall short. Think this Christmas morning about how Jesus casts light on ways we need to grow.

Light dispels fear. I’ve been told that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is fear. As we stumble around in clueless darkness, fears of what we can’t see can mount. Think this Christmas morning about how the perfect love of God expressed in Jesus’ presence among us can cast out fear.

Light allows us to see that we are not alone. When the light of Christ breaks into our dark night, we can see that we journey with others, and that God is present with us. Think this Christmas morning of the meaning of Immanuel, the name given to Jesus. It means God is with us. Give thanks that we are not left alone.

Light, like the sun breaking the horizon at dawn, represents the possibility of a new start. Each day we’re given that chance. Each new season in the church year gives us that chance. Each New Year’s celebration gives us that chance. Think this Christmas morning about the new thing God might do in your life in the days ahead, remembering that in our worship we recognize a God who makes all things new.

Finally, light brings with it a sense of joy. The psalmist put it this way: Weeping may spend the night but joy comes in the morning. This Christmas, if you happen to sing “Joy to the World”, reflect on how the arrival of the Christ child can lead you to a deeper experience of joy.

Blessings on this holy day. In all the celebrations, presents opened, feasts prepared, take a moment to reflect on the light of Christ in your life, with a spirit of thanksgiving and hope.

-Jay Sidebotham

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