“Peace is More Than a Dream!”
Isaiah 11:1-10, December 8th 2013
Sermon by Rev. Tim Woodard
Dreams are what make our hearts swim and give the weary soul a reason to go on. Dreams can be simply fantasies that swirl around inside our hearts when we sleep; or they can be the fuel that empowers us ever onward. Dreams are what fairy tales are made of. Dreams are what children have dance in their heads on Christmas Eve… as they lay anxiously in their beds, waiting for daylight. Dreams are the fragile thoughts that are shattered when they do not transpire as foreseen. Dreams are about life with all its surprises, some good and some not. We all have dreams.
Throughout the world there are children that have never known of a time like the good times we remember. They have never gone to bed with a nice feather pillow on clean sheets and a stomach that did not ache from the lack of enough food. The rumblings and growling of an empty stomach brings dreams that are unlike the ones of the child awaiting Santa’s charms. Poverty is something that is real and never seems to go away. Here in the United States it is estimated that one-quarter of all children go to bed hungry each night. It is for this reason that our outreach programs are so vital.
Some children dream of parents that care for them and give them all that they need. These children are loved and nurtured and live free of the terrors that rejection, humiliation, abuse and violence bring. Within our society there are all too many… who live out the nightmares that can hardly be understood by normal families. There is too much confusion and too much fear in their lives for dreams of sugarplums and spice to take hold. They have no one to trust and no one to have confidence in and to love. What promises can we make to such as these?
The newspapers constantly carry the tragic stories of children that have gone wild in our society. Children can be cruel, nasty and mean. These skills can only be learned at the feet of refined masters. There are all too many adults that offer our children nothing but hated. Children learn from those around them. These children fear for themselves and they have a fear of others. They learn to hate others because of the color of their skin; they hate the rich because they are poor; they hate the poor because they are rich; they hate peace because life is not peaceful. Hatred knows no bounds and seeks no limits. Hatred is because hatred was. Hatred is the enemy of promise and cripples dreams before they begin.
These examples speak of broken promises and crushed dreams. Is it our destiny to crush the new growth of promise that each generation brings? Is world peace in our time hopeless?
The season of Advent tells us: “No!”
Why… because God had a dream.
God had a dream of peace and of righteousness. From our lesson in Isaiah we heard how God put in the mouth of the prophet Isaiah the prophecy, the dream that from out of the stump of Jessie there would come forth a shoot. What remained of the house of Jesse, the roots of that lineage, would one day bear new fruit. Through Isaiah we hear of God’s dream. God dreamed that one day the house of David would bring forth a new offspring that would bring peace and righteousness to his chosen people, his children.
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,” ‘This was more than a dream.’ “The Spirit of counsel and of power,” ‘It was a prophetic voice’ “the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” /Isaiah 11:2/ Thus was heard the prophecy. It was a prophetic voice… telling us of the coming of God’s only Son. It was the voice that first told us of God’s plan to send a Messiah to his people.
Upon the shoulders of that one – would come wisdom and understanding. It is only through wisdom and understanding that we can expect to right the wrongs of neglect and abuse. It is only with wisdom and understanding that the needs of a child filled with fear and hatred can be reckoned with. It takes wisdom and understanding to help the needy and fill the stomachs of a child born to poverty. It takes the counsel of the wise for only with understanding can we see through the cracks of a prideful and often stubborn people.
Hear the voices of wisdom in modern times:
“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal” – John Lennon
“Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal” – Martin Luther King Jr
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace” – Jimi Hendrix
“I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself” – Nelson Mandela
“Peace is always beautiful” – Walt Whitman
“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies” – Archbishop Tutu
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist” – Mahatma Gandhi
“If everyone demanded peace instead of another TV set, then there’d be peace” – John Lennon
“Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace” – Nelson Mandela
God, Our Heavenly Father, spoke through Isaiah that he would one day send the Messiah who could counsel, not the counsel of war, but the counsel of peace. The power was to come from his Spirit. His power would overcome the power of poverty, bigotry, envy, and fear. Through this Messiah, his power would overcome the power of hatred. Through guidance and instruction this Messiah was to come and bestow a new sense of peace to his people. With all knowledge the Prince of Peace would be able to fulfill the dream that God shared through Isaiah.
Righteousness is the tool by which the Messiah was called to save. It is through righteousness that he was called to judge the needy. “Fairness and honesty are the mainstays of righteousness.” (Repeat) Fairly he will judge and with honesty he will instruct. It is in the spirit of this prophecy that many are called to prepare the way.
The prophet Isaiah was also given the prophetic mouth of the Lord. In chapter forty, in the book of Isaiah, we hear his foreshadowing of the voice crying out in the wilderness. “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord – make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Through the eyes of Matthew, in his gospel account, we hear how John the Baptist, fulfilled this prophetic dream. John the Baptist proclaims the promise: “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I.”
God’s dream has been fulfilled. God put his dream into a promise, a promise that has not been broken. At the birth of Jesus, God incarnated the greatest promise he had ever made – the promise of redemption. Jesus also was called to keep a promise and that promise was fulfilled as he died on a cross, alone and abandoned, for our sake.
As the excitement of Advent continues to prepare us… we must not forget the promise. We must not lose sight of the cross, that symbol of God’s love for us. Christmas is more than just a story about a baby born in a manger bed.
Christmas is the keeping of a promise that brings peace to us all. It is the culmination of the words of Isaiah who foretold it. It is the drama by which John the Baptist prepared the way as he publicly announced the coming of our Lord. Christmas is the day that God kept his promise and came to us in the baby, born in that humble stable in Bethlehem.
Isn’t it time we ‘all the people of the world’ responded to God’s outpouring of love? The Psalmist said it so well. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” /Psalm 133:1/ The Apostle Paul had these words for the people of God to consider: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” /Romans 12:17 & 18/
We can learn how to make the dreams of our children more like the dreams of our God. Listen to these words from the poet, Diane Loomans: “If I had my child to raise over again, I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less. I’d do less correcting, and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I would care to know less, and know to care more. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play. I’d run through more fields, and gaze at more stars. I’d do more hugging, and less tugging. I would be firm less often, and affirm much more. I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later. I’d teach less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.”
Let our children continue to dream and may we join with them in their dreams. Let the promise of love, of life eternal and the fulfillment of all our wants and desires let these be more than simply a dream! The peace that surrounds the story of Christmas is more than simply a dream! Peace is realized in the love of a Father, who came to us in a child named Jesus. Peace is experienced when we grasp the truth of God’s incarnate love. Peace is a symbol of God’s readiness to accept us as we are. Rest assured that God’s promise is fulfilled. The Messiah’s coming was foretold. John the Baptist prepared the way. Christ lived and died for us, to bring us God’ everlasting promise of peace.
Peace is more than a dream!