Christmas Eve 2008 Isaiah 9:2-7 A Son is given to us
Do any of you young people know what this is? (a yoke that goes around a horses neck-explain what it does and how it works).
A yoke is a symbol or reminder of suffering and burden. It cannot be removed by the one waring it and must be carried around all the time.
You and I have a yoke around our necks and we were born with it on. (place the yoke upon my shoulders to symbolise death around us all) The difference between this sort of yoke, and the yoke around our shoulders, is that we cannot see ours. Our yoke is the burden of death. As sad and as difficult as it is to talk about on Christmas Eve, one day we will all die; it is the yoke around our necks that burdens us. I the book of James it says ‘sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.’ Death is the invisible yoke around all of us. Like a horse wearing this yoke and pulling a burden, it seems to us that there is no way out of our situation.
Left on our own, we cannot change what has happened or what will happen. We live with this darkness overhanging us. However, God in his great compassion and mercy, couldn’t just look on and leave us suffering under this burden. He refused to see his people, you and me, die a death that would mean total separation from him. In his great love for us he chose to change our situation. Like a farmer taking this yoke off his horse, God sent his Son Jesus to remove our yoke.
The prophet Isaiah foresaw this saying ‘The people walking in darkness,(that foretells of all people, not just Israel), have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You [the Lord] have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.’ The yoke, the bar across our shoulders, the rod which pierces our hearts…death, has been shattered; totally smashed to pieces because of the birth Jesus, which we celebrate tonight.
Isaiah continues his excited vision saying ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ The Child of God, Jesus, is a child who is not born for God, but to us; the Son of God is given to us. And his birth, if you listen carefully, will remove the yoke around our shoulders. The government will be on HIS shoulders. That is, Jesus was born to us in Bethlehem to take the yoke, the rod we bare upon our shoulders, death, and to place it on his shoulders.
(Take the yoke of my shoulders and place it on the manger and say ‘From the words of Isaiah ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’) The wood of the manger, points forward to the wood of the cross, where Jesus, the Son of God, took the punishment for our sin, and died in our place at Golgotha. This is the great light of Christmas; this is the light that shines in our darkness.
Jesus, the little baby in a manger, is the greatest gift we will ever receive. So receive him into your heart through faith, let him be born into your heart this Christmas and be filled with the great joy. For Jesus truly is reason for the season.