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12.06.20 Peace through Gracious Truth Isaiah 9, John 1 Sermon Summary

by on December 7, 2020

The “Prologue” to John’s Gospel combines contemporary philosophy, universal religious convictions, Jewish themes, and Christian doctrine. We could spend months on these eighteen verses. But when placed in conversation with Isaiah we hear specific harmonies, and Isaiah narrows our interpretation of John to manageable proportions.

The prophet Isaiah is also the painter Isaiah. He uses vivid images and allegories to get his point across. The prophet Isaiah is also the poet Isaiah. He uses repetition, word play, and metaphors. And of course the prophet Isaiah is the prophet Isaiah, speaking God’s truth and dealing cards of hope from a deck of memories.

Isaiah’s audience is a people nearing the end of war. It has been a long night of darkness, and they desperately want the dawn of a new day. They have suffered one hardship after another. In the words of Isaiah he refers to: The “yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.”

Today we might hear, “fear over physical health, anxiety over our nation’s future, and the weight of financial debt.” But Isaiah the painter, the poet, and the prophet says, “All these, God has broken. “God has broken the long night with the light of dawn.

“The darkness of war, the sounds of trampling boots, and the blood stained uniforms of soldiers,” Isaiah says, “will yield to peace. The birth of this new day comes like the birth of a new child. We know it is coming and yet we must wait.

“But the child will come, and his name will be Wonderful Counselor—with words of comfort and assurance. It will be Mighty God—vanquishing our insecurities. It will be Everlasting Father—providing for our care. But most of all,” the prophet says, “the name will be Prince of Peace, embodying the hope of a kingdom of peace, a kingdom built on social justice and right relationships.”

In the prophet Isaiah, the light of peace is promised. Heard against this background one of John’s messages stands out: In the birth of Jesus the new day of Isaiah has dawned. The Prince of Peace has come. The end of the war is near, but not as Isaiah envisioned it. It comes not with a victory through violence followed by a perpetual peace. Rather it comes through the non-violence of love.

Jesus taught and lived, “Love your enemies,” that we might become “children of God.” Commenting on this dynamic, the apostle Paul wrote that, “we are more than conquerors.” Evil in our lives and the life of the world are not conquered by force but more, they are transformed by love.

John saw what Martin Luther King saw: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (“Love your Enemies” in Strength to Love, p. 47)

Isaiah, John, King, and Jesus all saw something new. The Law came through Moses. Laws can maintain harmony but they cannot bring peace. What is new is that grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. And with this gracious truth comes peace.

What is gracious truth?

Truth identifies the way things are and identifies us as we are. The Law is helpful here in that it shows us where we fall short. Truth speaks hard words: “You are broken. You are sick. You are addicted. You are proud. You are uncaring.” Truth is what we confess in our prayer of reconciliation.

Grace speaks another word: “You weren’t meant to be these things. God did not create you for this. You would not choose this for yourself. The light of life still flickers. A new day can dawn in your life. You can be reborn as a child of God.” Gracious truth is what we hear in our words of assurance: Your sins have been forgiven and you are reconciled to God and to one another.

Jesus said, “by loving your enemies you may become children of God, for blessed are the peacemakers; they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:44-45, 9)

“Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Child I have in mind: With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind. To show God’s love aright she bore to us a Savior, when half-gone was the night.”

“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding,” Paul wrote in Romans 14:19. Let us pursue peace by living according to God’s gracious truth found in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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