• Steven Marsh

Hope–The Name Above All Names: a Reflection on Isaiah 9:2-7

God’s promise of a Messiah is grounded in God’s intention to save humanity and heal a broken world. “For God so loved the world.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reflecting upon his life and ministry in South Africa as a champion to end apartheid and create a free South Africa, writes, “…God did not just talk…He showed himself to be a doing God. Perhaps we might add another point about God-he takes sides. He is not a neutral God. He took the side of the slaves, the oppressed, the victims. He is still the same even today; he sides with the poor, the hungry, the oppressed, and the victims of injustice.”[1]

These words from his authorized biography ring true now as they did when he administered the Lord’s Supper to me when I was at his residence in 1989. Apartheid was still the social construct of the time. Tutu demonstrated to me the intersecting of hope, peace, joy, and love with justice. He showed me God who is for the victims of injustice. Tutu captivated my mind and heart by showing me Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6 lists four names for Jesus: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. It is important to note that the prepositions used in Isaiah 9:6 are the words “for” and “to.” Prepositions matter. The text says that a child was born for humanity and a son given to humanity as its Savior. Jesus did not come into the world to heal the healthy or to befriend the just. He came for the hurting and lonely; the suffering and sick; the victims of injustice; and all who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Jesus gives you and me his very life. That is why we must do the gospel and not simply study it. Doing the gospel brings hope, peace, joy, and love into real life situations involving real people who have real needs who are desperately seeking justice. I’m a quick study. I bet you are too! People are broken and victims of injustice. People yearn for hope, peace, joy, and love. We are to do the gospel. We are to take Jesus to the streets this Jesus who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

In his book, Simply Christian, N. T. Wright makes an assertion about the significance of followers of Jesus taking Jesus to the streets that is doing hope, peace, joy, and love. According to Wright, our longing for justice “comes with the kit of being human.”[2] Although we all strive for justice, we often fail to achieve it. As Wright says,

You fall off your bicycle and break your leg. You go to the hospital and they fix it. You stagger around on crutches for a while. Then, rather gingerly, you start to walk normally again …There is such a thing as putting something to rights, as in fixing it, as getting it back on track. You can fix a broken leg, a broken toy, a broken television. So why can’t we fix injustice? It isn’t for lack of trying.[3]

And yet, in our failures to fix injustice, we keep dreaming that one day all broken things will be set right. Wright contends, “Christians believe this is so because all humans have heard, deep within themselves, the echo of a voice which calls us to live [with a dream for justice]. And [followers of Christ] believe that in Jesus that voice became human and did what had to be done to bring it about.” [4]

Prepare for Jesus. Jesus was born for us; to intersect justice with injustice. “For a child has been born for us; a son given to us” Jesus brought into the world, in his very person, justice. Jesus encountered people, one life at a time, and turned the injustices in their lives to justice. There can be no hope, peace, joy, and love, until you settle the matter of needing a Savior; and that Savior is Jesus. Then you will know who you are and to whom you belong.

Are you banking your hope on Jesus and God’s promises?  Remember, Jesus “…did not just talk…He showed himself to be a doing God…He is not a neutral God. He took the side of the oppressed and victims. He is still the same even today; he sides with the poor and the victims of injustice.”[5] Bank your hope on the doing God who is bringing about the end of injustice. Don Saliers, Professor Emeritus of Theology and Worship at Candler School of Theology, writes, “This ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ is for all time and will be the light until all manner of things shall be well.”[6]

This is Christmas Eve. The candles of hope, peace, joy, love, and the Christ candle have been lit. The birth of Jesus calls you to walk in the interval between birth and death with the future and present hope that God is your Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. This will require us to see all matters of difficulty as opportunities to bring about positive change. As Martin Thielen writes, “…Fostering optimism is an act of discipline…Cultivating optimism is an act of faith.”[7]

[1]Allister Sparks & Mpho Tutu, Tutu (San Francisco, California: HarperOne, 2011), 76-77.

[2]N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (New York City, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), 4.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Ibid., 15.

[5]Allister Sparks & Mpho Tutu, Tutu, 76-77.

[6]Don Saliers in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 102.

[7]Martin Thielen, Searching For Happiness (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 40-41.

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