by Cynthia Ruchti
As of this date, we’re four months from candle-lit, evergreen-scented, hushed and holy celebrations of the birth of the Christ Child.
That’s not what crossed my mind when I woke this morning. It jarred me later, when I wearied of the news—one heartache or atrocity after another, one report of heinous-osity maxing out our vocabularies of the heinous. It smacked my frontal cortex long after my second cup of coffee. It rattled me. I needed rattling.
I’m speaking on the subject of rejoicing at a women’s retreat in less than two weeks. Rejoicing and joy have paddled hard for attention against the floodwaters of international heartbreak, whispers of “Is this another holocaust? God help us!” and losses that turn our nation into mourners. Rejoicing. Joy.
The topical index in the back of my Bible—old school searching—suggested Isaiah 9 as a place to find the word joy. As I turned the pages, I hoped I’d learn more conceptually, too.
Smacked. Jarred. Rattled. Bowed down.
My eyes rested on a verse tucked just underneath the joy reference in that column. “Because every boot of the thundering warriors, and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire,” Isaiah 9:5 CEB.
Yes! God cares what’s happening! As if I needed the reminder. The perpetrators of the heaviness under which we’re trying to breathe and write and work and laugh when our grandchildren say something funny will be stopped and called to account for what they’re doing.
This is when rejoicing began to push out my portion of international despair—when I read the next verse, the one immediately following the “garments rolled in blood.”
A child is born to us,
a son is given to us,
And authority will be
on his shoulders.
He will be named
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be vast authority
and endless peace.
Isaiah 9:6-7, CEB
That’s the context? That’s the setup for the treasured announcement promising the Christ Child’s coming?
The text flows seamlessly:
Isaiah 8:21—“They will pass through the land, dejected and hungry, and when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will curse their king and God. They will turn toward heaven and look to the earth, but they will see only distress and darkness, random movement, and the anguish and doom of banishment. (Chapter 9) Nonetheless, those who were in distress won’t be exhausted…The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned. You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy. They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as those who divide plunder rejoice…You’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them, the staff on their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor. Because every boot of the thundering warriors, and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire. A child is born to us,”—No break in the story!—“a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be vast authority and endless peace…”
A “pitch-dark land” is promised a Messiah. For those exhausted by distress, a Messiah. For those confused by “random movement” and “anguish and doom” on every hand, a Messiah to believe in, cling to, rejoice in.
Isn’t that at the heart of every word we speak or write? Onto the darkest of backgrounds, the most trying scene, the gravest crisis, we layer the “Ah, yes, but…!” of the Promise.
Everything changes when Jesus appears on the scene.
Joy. To the world.
Rejoicing in Hope, Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark, the pitch-dark, through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She currently serves as professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers. You can connect with her through cynthiaruchti.com, www.twitter.com/cynthiaruchti, or www.facebook.com/CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage.