The Lessons of Christmas
Dr. Keith Wagner
We have a tradition in our family during the Christmas season that includes our grandchildren. During Advent we take them to a Christmas production like the Nutcracker. This year we are going to the Victoria Theater in Dayton to see, “Mooseltoe.” It’s a childrens’ story about a moose who wants to be a reindeer. The grandchildren always look forward to the outing since it includes going out to dinner following the show.
When I applied for tickets all the good seats were already taken. It was impossible to find five seats close together. So, I had to settle for seats in the back of the upper balcony. My wife had reminded me to purchase the tickets back in September but I put it off. I should have acted sooner, but I procrastinated.
All of us have traditions, events and goals we look forward too. They give us hope and a feeling of anticipation. At the same time, we can’t sit idly by and assume they will come to pass without taking some action. Had I acted sooner our seats would have been much closer and our view not as hopeless.
Isaiah was proclaiming to the people of his time that hope was coming soon. He described a time when God would reign and the world would be in peace. He was speaking to a divided community. There was much pessimism and hopelessness. The world was in shambles and people lived in darkness. But, things were about to change. Isaiah called his people to hope rather than fear.
That hope however, required them to do something. It called them to participate in the promise of future peace by taking some action. The sooner the better, because failing to take action would prolong the possibility of more hopeful times. Or, like me, they would have to settle for lousy seats in the kingdom.
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How can we help to bring about Isaiah’s vision of peace? How can we help to make the reign of God a reality for our time and the world we live in? What action needs to happen to make Isaiah’s vision of a peaceful world come true.
First, we need to listen to the word of God. Isaiah calls us to the mountain to receive instruction. “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord . . . that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” In our world there are too many distractions. It is almost impossible to tune in to the teachings of God because we are flipping channels so fast we don’t pause long enough to hear God’s message.
Last Saturday I was watching the Ohio State – Michigan game when Ohio State was behind by a touchdown. They had the ball and at one point took a time out. I flipped the channel to see what was happening in other games. While I was surfing other channels I missed the touchdown pass that tied the score 14 to 14. I had to settle for the replay to see what happened.
Perhaps we will miss out of the coming kingdom because we are too busy flipping channels. We just might miss the most important play of life by changing channels prematurely. “Come to the mountain.” Listen to the voice of God. Tune in and concentrate on the messages of the Lord and follow His instructions.
Second, peace becomes a reality when we participate in the process with our hands. Isaiah tells us to “beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.” In other words, he wants us to change our weapons to garden tools. Rather than use things that are harmful to others, we need to be planting seeds and cultivating the soil.
Basil Mathews was walking along the dusty streets of an Arabian village. He met a tall, young, Arab boy playing a flute. He asked to see the flute and it seemed surprisingly heavy. After examining it he discovered it was made out of an old gun barrel. The boy explained that he had picked up the gun in an area where there had been fierce fighting. He filed it down and drilled holes in it. From a weapon of destruction he had created an instrument of music. (from, Ride the Wild Horses, by J. Wallace Hamilton)
Imagine how different our world would be if we could convert tanks to tractors, fighter jets to emergency ambulances and guns to instruments. All it takes is a little creativity and a vision of peace. God calls us to hammer away at those parts of our lives which are more like swords than they are plowshares.
Isaiah also told his listeners to “walk in the light of the Lord.” For me, to walk in the light of the Lord is only possible when we are willing to submit to it. Do we really want peace? Do we really want God to reign? That isn’t possible unless we are willing to give God control of our lives.
The word Advent is derived from the Latin word, “adventure.” To submit to the possibility of a peaceful world is an adventure. It requires surrender. It is the willingness to walk where we have never walked, exposing ourselves to the truth and the presence of God.
This past week the media had a circus with the brawl that occurred at the Pacers and Pistons’ basketball game. Players went into the stands and attacked some fans who had thrown beer on them. The NBA suspended several players, some for the length of the season. But all the attention was on the players. Not one security guard’s name or fan’s name who intervened in the melee was mentioned. Thankfully, there were some there who walked in the light, keeping the peace and preventing the ruckus from escalating into an all out war.
Peace is possible when there are those who are willing to walk in the light, those who don’t believe in violence as a means to an end. God calls us all to be agents of peace, walking in the light, turning our swords into plowshares and following His teachings.
Our grandchildren enjoy the Nutcracker more than any other story at Christmas. Like most children my grandson likes the scene where the mice battle the rats. But, that is only a dream, the dream of a little girl, who for awhile, escapes to a world of make believe. To live in a world of peace may seem like a fantasy to most of you. Nevertheless, as people of faith we are called to try.
––Copyright, 2004, Dr. Keith Wagner. Used by permission.