darron edwards.jpeg

Jesus came. I often think about how much worse our world would be if he didn’t come. Jesus came to us in the midst of adversity. Oddly, Jesus will return to a world still struggling with and in adversity.

Around 690 B.C. in Jerusalem these words were uttered: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Some eight centuries before Jesus was born, the city of Jerusalem was being threatened by Resin, King of Syria, and Pekah, King of Israel’s ten tribes. Isaiah the prophet, at God’s command, attempts to reassure Ahaz, Judah’s frightened king, that the city would be divinely delivered. The young ruler was invited to ask the Lord for any sign he might think of and it would be granted. But the young infidel refused. Responding to this, God then gave another sign to the whole house of Israel to show His intention to someday rescue Jerusalem from all her enemies forever! And here is the sign: Her baby would be known as Immanuel, meaning, “God with us.”

The movie Amistad tells the story of a group of African slaves who seize control of their slave-ship and demand to be returned to their homeland. The captain instead takes them to an American seaport where they are imprisoned. As they await the judge’s verdict, one of the men, Yamba, sits in a corner of the prison cell thumbing through the pages of a Bible. Cinque, the leader of the group, looks over and says, “You don’t have to pretend to be interested in that. Nobody’s watching but me.” Yamba looks up and says, “I’m not pretending. I’m beginning to understand it.” He cannot read English but he can make sense of the pictures. When Cinque comes over to see for himself, Yamba explains the story in their native language. “Their people have suffered more than ours” as he shows Cinque a picture of Jews being attacked by lions. He continues, “Their lives were full of suffering.” Then Yamba flips the page and points to a picture of the baby Jesus with a halo on Jesus’ head, “Then he was born and everything changed.” Cinque asks, “Who is he?” Yamba replies, “I don’t know, but everywhere he goes, he is followed by the sun.

Advent is quickly approaching, but the times, the talks, and the tensions continue to remain unsettled. The pandemic still rages. Christian nationalism continues to roil our politics. The news media amplifies the insurrection and continues to downplay the power of the resurrection. Since 1619, America still cannot discuss race without grace.

And this question still remains, “Who is he?”

Unto us a child is born,

Unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

God answers our anxiety with a manger in Bethlehem. There we find the baby (JESUS) who brings us peace now and one day will bring peace to the whole world.

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” We live in dark days, and it is easy to be discouraged. There is so much hatred on every hand. If you turn on the TV, you hear politicians shouting at each other, accusing each other, slandering each other. It feels like the national blood pressure has gone up 100 points in the last few months.

We are an angry, unhappy nation right now. And there seems to be no end in sight. We were taught never to discuss politics or religion in polite company. But where is that “polite company” these days? Just try talking politics over the holidays and see what happens. It may not go well for you.

Even with people you love, if you say one wrong word, you risk an explosion. We walk on eggshells during the holidays lest we say something that somehow offends someone.

“The hopes and fears of all the years.”

We’ve got the fear part down just fine.

But where is the hope?

Listen to Isaiah’s answer: His name shall be called . . .

Wonderful Counselor, because he has the answers we need.

Mighty God, because he has the power to help us.

Everlasting Father, because he knows us and loves us anyway.

Prince of Peace, because he alone can fix what is broken.

You wouldn’t think John Wilkes Booth had anything to do with Christmas, but in a strange way he did.

In early April 1865, the bloody Civil War that had torn America asunder was drawing to a close. Richmond had fallen, Lee had surrendered, and the end was in sight. Motivated by anger and despair, John Wilkes Booth decided to take matters into his own hands. Entering the box at Ford’s Theater, where Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln were watching a play called Our American Cousin, Booth fired a bullet into the head of Abraham Lincoln. He died a few hours later.

The news deeply troubled a young minister in Philadelphia named Phillips Brooks. When the slain president’s body lay in state in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Brooks went to pay his respects. Later he preached a sermon on Abraham Lincoln's legacy.

A few months later, hoping to lift his spirits, the church sent him to the Holy Land. The itinerary included a horseback ride from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Back then it was a small village, far removed from the bustling city it would later become. By nightfall the pastor was in the field where, according to tradition, the shepherds heard the angelic announcement. Then he attended the Christmas Eve service at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Something about the beauty and simplicity of that visit stayed with Phillips Brooks when he returned to America. Three years later he wrote a Christmas poem for the children’s service at Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. He then gave it to Lewis Redner, the church organist, who composed the music in time for the children to sing it in the service. It became a favorite Christmas carol when it was published in 1874.

The first verse gives us a poetic picture of Bethlehem as Phillips Brooks saw it:

O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

The last two lines remind us that Bethlehem was more than a picturesque by-way in the Holy Land:

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

Pastor Darron LaMonte Edwards is a 1988 graduate of Waxahachie High School.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.