Christmas is meant to be a joyous time. It’s hard to get away from people without them saying something like, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” But what about those who can find no reason to be merry or no motivation to be happy? Solomon wrote, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda,” (Proverbs 25.20, ESV). In other words, pressing a person to be happy, whether through song or through words, can be cruel like stripping them of their coat when it’s freezing outside, or even irritating and explosive.
It isn’t that people don’t want to be happy during the holidays; it is that there is so much going on in their hearts and minds that it makes Christmas a time of darkness rather than of light. Real life isn’t like the Hallmark Christmas movies. Things don’t always work themselves out by Christmas morning. Peter doesn’t always make it home early to make some Folgers coffee that wakes up the family.
Widows and widowers have lost their life-long spouse. Parents have lost their children. Children have parents who are oversees fighting wars. Families are homeless. Families are watching loved ones fighting cancer or some other disease, hoping for one last Christmas. Fathers and mothers are without a job and cannot afford even the meagerest of Christmas gifts for their children. Families are torn apart because of harsh words spoken years ago or even just yesterday. Many are dreading visiting family knowing that someone they love will be passed out drunk before Christmas dinner is even served.
If we were to stop and think for a moment, we’d realize that these are the people are the people who can really understand Christmas the best. Who better to understand the marvel and beauty of light than those who are in a dark place?
Today is the first Sunday of Advent; it is a time when we remember what it was like to expectantly wait for the coming of the Messiah, not knowing when it may be. Today we have a date in mind when expectation will cease and celebration will begin: December 25. There was no such date for the Jews. Their date was simply known as “someday.” From the time of Adam and Eve, it was “someday.” Through the time of Abraham, Moses, and David, it was always “someday.” Someday never came though. Solomon took the thrown. After Solomon, Rehoboam split the kingdom because of his hubris. Jeroboam immediately led the northern tribes into idolatry, while the southern two tribes we less idolatrous. The northern tribes fell further and further into disarray as king after king lost control of the country. It was to these people that Isaiah wrote in the ninth chapter.
This morning we are only looking at the first two verses in this chapter. The first reality that we look at is the gloom of the people. As we get into more of the history of those to whom Isaiah wrote, we will see that they indeed lived in great darkness. The second reality is the glory that was promised to come to those who lived in gloom. Finally, we will see the gospel of hope. The gloom, the glory, and the gospel.