So I wonder what stood out for you in our first reading from Isaiah . . . . Was it perhaps, “For us a child has been born for us” (Is 9: 6). Maybe, “ . . . and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” is the verse that best stands out (Is 9: 6). How many of you noticed the reference to the day of Midian . . . ? (Is 9: 4). What is perhaps helpful in understanding this passage from Isaiah is to take a closer look at Midian.
The Day of Midian as noted in this song of praise in Isaiah refers to a great battle in the Book of Judges. The Midianites had a chequered history in Israel. While they were descendants of Abraham, they became mortal enemies of Israel. The Book of Judges describes an epic battle between Gideon and the Midianites. Gideon’s army is grocely outnumbered and armed with nothing more than clay pots, torches and trumpets. These are impossible odds that Gideon faces. However God speaks to Gideon and says he has a plan to deliver Gideon and Israel. This small group of men encircles the Midian camp with their clay pots and torches. In the other hand they have their trumpets. At the appropriate time the clay pots are smashed, torches light up the dark sky and the trumpets are blown with a cry from Gideon’s group, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (Judges 7: 20). The Midianite army scatters and runs in fear. This victory was no ordinary victory. Because of the great odds against Gideon and that God utterly destroyed the Midian army to within Biblical proportions; this victory was understood to be the very hand of God that is mighty to save. A new king is then born for the people of Israel. This is not a reference to a new king born aka Jesus Christ, but rather a new Davidic king who will deliver Israel into better days than the previous administration. (In our context, think Stephen Harper vs. Justin Trudou or Obama when he was first elected).
So really when we think about it, what does violence and wars have to do with Christmas anyway? This is supposed to be a happy time. A time where we focus on peace, angels, carols, good food and any number of other traditions that we full this time of year with. Christmas is the time when we gather to celebrate God becoming flesh in our world through the birth of Jesus Christ.
Over the course of Advent I had been listening and following a group on Facebook known as “The Work of the people.” This was a group that interviewed biblical scholars and others about their understanding of Advent. One video clip had the interviewer ask the question, “Are you ready for a coming king?” The scholar being interviewed thought about that for a moment and then responded, “Man that is a good question. For me I have to believe that the king is already here. I have to believe that the king is already here in this world for me to continue in this thing.” This comment has stayed with me because I believe it also captures the essence of tonight and the Christmas season. The point of this comment and indeed of the story of the Day of Midian is quite simply, we cannot do this alone. We cannot continue to live out our lives as Christians in this world alone. We need help. We need God. God knows this and understands deeply that we cannot face all that life brings us alone. So what does God do? God shows up in the flesh, takes on human form and shares a common experience with the people of the world.
This is not a one-time gig for God. God continues to share in this experience with us in this world in the here and now, with you and me. So when the odds are stacked against us and we have our backs up against the wall, take heart my friends. The king is already here and will deliver us with the very hand of God that is still mighty to save and liberate us into new and better days ahead.