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The Third Sunday of Advent – December 17

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:7

Have you noticed the difference in sound between an ambulance siren speeding towards you and the sound of the same ambulance siren speeding away? Or, the whirring sound of a helicopter coming towards you and the whirring sound of the helicopter flying away? Scientists have named that difference between the sounds of coming and going as the Doppler Effect.

There is a Doppler Effect of sorts in our lives when we consider, for example, how differently the past looks to us now than when we were living it. Or, how differently a helpless baby in a manger looked to shepherds than that baby looks to us now. And how differently that baby will look to us when we see Him returning in glory!

Imagine how the coming Messiah must have looked to dwellers in the ancient community of Qumran who left behind the Dead Sea Scrolls. These were Jewish ascetics, thought to be Essenes, who lived there from the second century B. C. to A.D. 68 when they were crushed by the Romans. Residents of Qumran thought their Messiah would come with angels and destroy the Romans and the Jewish turncoats. One prominent scroll from Qumran bore the suggestive title “The Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness.” Otherwise called the “War Scroll”, it served as Qumran’s military manual for what they dreamed would be the mother of battles of “light” against “darkness”.

Travel west from Qumran to Jerusalem to the Shrine of the Rock where you can see the Dead Sea Scrolls left behind by dwellers of Qumran. The oldest and best preserved of the scrolls is “The Great Scroll of Isaiah” that contains all 66 chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy. The scroll is 17 sheets of leather stitched together, 11 inches high and 24 feet long. The priceless scroll is secured in a white, temperature-controlled underground vault, with black walls, in order to symbolize the battle of the “Sons of Light” against the darkness.

As we look back to the troubled time of Isaiah, we recognize that we today are caught up in fierce battle “against the cosmic powers of this present darkness…” (Ephesians 6:12). We are not fighting FOR victory, but fighting FROM victory, our position won by Jesus, the Light of the world! It is just as the ancient “Great Scroll of Isaiah” reads today: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). We live our lives in the light of Jesus who is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

How differently Jesus looks to the world today than He will look when the world sees Him come in His glory! Today’s scripture from the ancient scroll of Isaiah promises that “His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace.” Jesus’ reign over this world will be established and upheld “with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore!”

The beloved Christmas carol, “Joy to the World”, was written by eighteenth century minister and hymn writer Isaac Watts. He based the hymn on his translation of Psalm 98 which looks forward to Jesus’ Second Coming when heaven and nature sing with joy:

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”

In the midst of the battle of light against darkness we look forward rejoicing: Jesus is coming!


Wonderful God, your prophet Isaiah declares Your delight in all who declare Your Good News: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace.” We thank You for those who first broke to us the Good News that all is well, announcing Your salvation. Today we look back and remember a parent, pastor, teacher, friend, neighbor who lived Your Good News and declared it. Make us like them, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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