I love the Christmas reading of Isaiah 9:2-7. It begins with the message about ‘the people walking in darkness’ and comes to a climax with the description of the Lord Jesus as ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.
However, I struggled to comprehend the very next phrase: ‘the increase of His government will know no end’. What was that supposed to mean? It didn’t sound good! After all, for us to get more government sounds like more regulations, more red tape, more officials, and higher taxes … none of which sounds like good news at all. Surely it didn’t mean that Jesus would bring in more rules and laws?
It’s worth pausing however to recognise that strong government may not be such a bad idea. In the parts of the world where there is no government, perhaps due to civil war, the result is generally chaos, bloodshed, injustice and the exploitation of the weak and the vulnerable. In these sorts of situation people long for justice, protection, security and provision which a stable government might be able to provide.
That was the issue in Isaiah’s day. The Assyrians were about to invade, and the darkness of oppression would soon cover most of the land. In the chaos of a foreign invasion, injustice, disease and death would flourish. The people would be longing for someone to rescue them – someone who would rule effectively, defeating the enemy and establishing peace. They would be longing for a Prince of Peace who would establish an effective government to provide security, justice and provision.
It’s the same for us. Though we are grateful for our political leaders, we recognise that we live in a dark world. It is a place where suffering and death regularly invades. It’s a place where sorrow casts a shadow on all our lives, disrupted and dislocated by our own sin and the sin of others. In that context, as in Isaiah’s day, we should also long for the appearance of someone to help us. At Christmas we rejoice that such a ruler has appeared.
So, this Christmas let us rejoice that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who has come to establish His rule. Let us pray that amidst the darkness of this world the great light of the gospel will dawn (Isaiah 9:2) such that many people discover the peace and security which can only come through living under the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Rector, St. Nicholas Sevenoaks)