Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
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. …
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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.

Advent is a time of darkness—our days literally have more and more darkness the closer we get to Christmas. The physical darkness mirrors the world’s deep spiritual darkness. We walk in that darkness day after day: violence far away in places like Syria and Iraq, and violence near to home in Deanwood and Anacostia. We need Advent because it teaches us that the darkness has an end, that there is a light, shining in the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,” John’s gospel reminds us. Advent teaches us to watch for that light.

Our passage today reminds us that Jesus, our Prince of Peace, has a kingdom without end, but that it is a kingdom that grows, little by little, not arriving all at once. “His authority shall grow continually,” Isaiah says. Just like the sun, bit by bit, which takes over the darkness of winter, the reign of God is both here and yet still arriving. Even when we can’t see it, the light is breaking through. On Good Friday, Christ took the utter darkness of the world onto himself and offered to us his endless peace with God and each other. The light of Christ’s peace is meant to shine in the world through our lives, witness, and example.

Prayer:

O day of peace that dimly shines
through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
guide us to justice, truth, and love,
delivered from our selfish schemes.
May the swords of hate fall from our hands,
our hearts from envy find release,
till by God’s grace our warring world
shall see Christ’s promised reign of peace. Amen