Read: Isaiah 9:1–7

For a Child has been born for us, a Son given to us; authority rests upon His shoulders; and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Much of ancient Israel’s history was defined by war, persecution, occupation, and exile. Throughout history, the land of Israel has sat at an unfortunate intersection between major world powers. When the Egyptian Empire wanted to conquer the world, they marched troops over Israel. When the Assyrians were bent on world domination, they charged through Israel. When the Babylonians wanted to expand their empire, they plowed right over the land of Israel. The Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans all did the same. Israel was never the primary target of imperial aggression, it was just a frequent casualty in the continually shifting balance of world powers. Into this volatile land, a promise was made through the prophet Isaiah that a child would be born in Israel who would herald an everlasting age of peace and righteousness.

It is a wildly presumptuous promise to be sure. How can a child change the world for the better? What can an infant do to affect regional events? How can a new birth herald a new age? The answer is found in our experience with our own children. Children change everything! New parents find that the moment they see their newborn child, life becomes a more earnest endeavor. Self-interest is readily set aside in favor of taking care of another. Individual hopes and aspirations are no longer as significant as making sure that offspring have a chance to succeed. An infant born signals a new reality and new opportunities for everyone who comes in contact with that new life. How does the world and the power structures of our human family change? One life at a time, one child at a time, one new birth or rebirth at a time. Who could have ever imagined that the great Roman Empire would one day come under the authority of a religious movement focused on the life and ministry of a man who was born in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem in Judea? Roughly eight hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied just that!

How has an infant changed your life?

Lord, You have told us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. You have chosen to reveal Yourself to the world through the Hebrew people who have spent much of their existence as slaves, exiles, and scapegoats. You challenge us to believe that a world full of peace can begin with a baby in a manger. We struggle to understand how great movements of faith have their genesis in seemingly insignificant daily events. But that is how You work, and Your work is wonderful, mighty, and everlastingly peaceful. In Your name, I pray. AMEN.