v. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light...
v. 6 For a child has been born for us...and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Chrstians have always read these verses and heard them referring to the newness offered by God in Jesus. In their original context they probably refered to the birth of Hezekiah, son of the hapless Ahaz. Hezekiah would , indeeed, go on to rule well. He would preside over a time of national revival.
In an act of young evangelical fervor, my college roomate and I cut out large letters: "A child has been born for us," and taped them to our room-length dorm window after we got home from Thanksgiving break. Our room was on the tenth floor of one of the campus high-rises, overlooking a well-trod portion of the campus in Plattsburgh. In our world, we were "witnessing."
In the world around us we soon learned that, while some understood what it meant, many, many others were scratching their heads. I walked behind a group of women one day who were speculating on its meaning. "One of them must have made a kid," one said. "At least he's proud of it," came a reply. "Maybe one of them has a baby brother or sister," was another possibility. "Oh," one of them said, "maybe it has something to do with Christmas."
In my evangelical fervor I should have hurried up to them and delivered the "message." Being too shy for that kind of fervor, however, I held back, although still proud of myself for causing the conversation.
The leadership of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of which we were a part was very pleased with us, although later they were very disappointed that it had not seemed to have caused a scandal. They had hoped for intervention (i.e., "persecution") by the campus leadership against this public Christian witness (with Jewish words! although that irony was lost on us at the time).
We are about to celebrate the "child born for us" and it is very true that much of the world (even right around us) doesn't get it. I wonder what Isaiah would say to that? I suspect something like, "Who cares? Your job is to celebrate. Your job is to burn the light in the darkness. People will come to the light."
Perhaps, I want to say. But our churches are not full (although fuller than usual Christmas Eve). Perhaps it is because, as Jesus said, our light is "under a bushel basket." We are shy as a church, like I was on that campus sidewalk. We could use a little of that evangelical zeal if we truly do believe what we are saying. Not in somebody's face, but offered to their heart. Not a light that threatens to burn them, but one that offers to light their way.
How can you, and how can we, be that light?