Dec 20, 2013

Christmas Through The Eyes of Isaiah

I taught our last Bible study of the year. Being the last study before Christmas, I wanted to talk about Jesus' coming. Clients have asked to study the Old Testament and have reacted positively, so that's what we have been doing. 

Always someone says they love the Old Testament, and then someone else says God is too mean. That gives us a great chance to talk about God's unchanging nature and how the Gospel and grace can be found throughout history and throughout the Bible.

I decided to use Old Testament passages about Christmas. We read Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

We then talked about which Christmas traditions are found directly in the Bible, which are reasonable Biblical, and which are apparently invented for other purposes.

Then we studied another Isaiah passage. But first we talked about where Isaiah is in the Bible and what a prophet is, both in contemporary terms and Biblical terms. 

Then we read Isaiah 9:6-7: 
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."

We went through this passage phrase by phrase, taking it apart and figuring out what it could mean. The government is a hot topic for street youth, and the government sitting on Jesus' shoulders is a pretty frightening concept. We decided that this refers ultimately to Jesus' role in Revelation, since kings were in charge back then and men (Presidents, congress, etc.) still are in charge of governments. 

We discussed the titles given to Jesus. Prince of Peace was their favorite. Street youth long for the world that is promised by Isaiah and Jesus' coming. A world where justice and righteousness prevails. A world ruled by a Prince of Peace. That is so different from the world they experience now. But there is a built-in longing in them--indeed in all people--for such a world and such a ruler.

And finally, we discussed how Jesus brings this kingdom about. How his Kingdom breaks through on earth even today for brief and sometimes extended moments. And how his Kingdom is coming, as described in Revelations when a new heaven and new earth are provided and all of nature and everyone is made right with God. And we discussed how confessing our short-fallings, asking for help to be made right with God, and wanting to do better is how Jesus can make us right with God even this very day. 

Isaiah longed for it. 
We long for it. 
And it's available freely for the asking. 
What a Christmas gift!