ADOTS Morning Prayer: Friday, 25 December 2020 — Christmas Day
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“We’ve turned the corner on Covid,” President Trump said repeatedly in the run up to the presidential election. “We’ve rounded the turn. One day it will just disappear.” It was a lie, not necessarily malicious, not necessarily disingenuous — just evidently, obviously wrong. He offered false hope. To the contrary, President-Elect Biden warns us often that “we are in for a long, dark winter.” That seems to be closer to the truth, but a lot farther from hope. To give some sense of optimism, Mr. Biden reminds us that this is America, and that there’s nothing Americans can’t do if they just put theirs minds to it and work together. That, too, is a lie: not necessarily malicious, not necessarily disingenuous — just evidently, obviously wrong. As I wrote these words earlier in the week, Congress was still deadlocked over the Covid Relief Package and had just passed an emergency resolution to fund the government for two more days so they could do nothing productive for forty-eight more hours. Find me a private business as dysfunctional as Congress and I’ll show you a business that will not be in business in six months. Yet, somehow we keep paying salaries for work not done. To their credit, they were able to finalize both a bi-partisan Covid Relief bill and an omnibus spending bill to fund the government through September 2021. President Trump, who had earlier signaled his willingness to sign the bill promptly threatened to veto it instead. Such is our government.
What I long to see from government is some hint of wisdom, just the merest glimpse of righteousness: to know and to do the right thing for the good of all the people, to bring justice to bear, justice with peace for the good of all the people, especially for those who have for too long known too little justice and peace. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, because the damnable truth is that government can likely be no better than those it governs, certainly not in a democracy. We get the government we chose, the government we want, some say the government we deserve. And we are a mess: far from wisdom and righteousness, strangers to justice and peace.
That is why we so desperately need Isaiah’s words this Christmas morning, why we need to hear and see and share his vision:
Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV): 6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Let’s start with the end of Isaiah’s vision: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Not our democracy, not our Congress, not our President, not our we are Americans and we can do anything false sense of bravado. These are human institutions and they are part of the problem, like the ark which saved Noah and his family was not the solution, but part of the problem, because it bore within itself human sin. Let’s get this straight: some human governments are better than others — far better. Some leaders show greater human wisdom and better judgment than others. Some administrations approximate righteousness more closely than others. But Isaiah’s vision applies to none of them. None of them will usher in an eternal age of wisdom, peace, justice, and righteousness. Unless God breaks into history, unless the zeal of the LORD of hosts accomplishes this, we are without hope and without a future.
But this day, this day, proclaims that the zeal of the LORD of hosts has done this; this day proclaims that God has acted. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. This is no lie. This is no false hope. This is no failed hope. This is no false optimism. His name shall be called — his name is even now called — Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace: Jesus. We did not vote for his government; in fact, we have continually voted against it throughout history. But — thanks be to God — this is no democracy. God does not need our popular vote or even our electoral college. The zeal of the LORD of hosts has accomplished this.
Now look: human governments are still in rebellion against this divine government; read Psalm 2. That is why they are all so dysfunctional. We are — all of us — still in rebellion, more or less, against the righteous rule of the Prince of Peace. That is why we still place our hope in the wrong parties, people, and policies. We are all still part of the problem. But God has acted, God is acting, and God will continue to act to accomplish his good purpose of wisdom, peace, justice, and righteousness. Such a government is already, but not yet. It is already a reality because God has acted in and through the incarnation of his Son. It is not yet manifest fully among us because creation has yet to be fully restored and new Jerusalem has yet to come from heaven to earth like a bride adorned for her husband. But, it is coming; that day is coming. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
In the meantime, in the time of God’s patient waiting and working, our task and our privilege is to live as people who know this, as people who have been brought out of darkness into light:
Isaiah 9:2 (ESV): 2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
This is us, those of us who are in Christ Jesus. This light is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the one whose birth we celebrate this day. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. Walk in this truth; live in this hope.
May yours be a holy and blessed Christmastide. Amen.