PFOA : Isaiah 53:1-12
Christmas has been celebrated. Families and friends have come together to feast and party. Presents have been given, received and unwrapped. Its time to move on and prepare for the new year with its challenges and opportunities. And unfortunately many will leave the baby in the manger.
Handel did not leave the story there. The Birth was only Part I of Messiah. In Part II he told of the Passion of the Christ – His sufferings and rejection. He began, quoting John the Baptist, by pointing us to “Behold the Lamb of God”.
Refugees today are in the news, whether in the Middle East, the Mediterranean or closer home in Myanmar and the Indonesian seas. We are generally moved when we see the loss and sufferings of these displaced peoples, although in our hearts we may even think the politically incorrect words of Donald Trump and some others.
Jesus started life as a refugee to escape the murderous King Herod. Soon after His birth Joseph and Mary fled with Him to Egypt and remained there several years, staying in camps with other Jewish families with young children. There were no Red Cross or United Nations to help and it was doubtful if the Egyptians were particularly welcoming.
If we think Jesus’ suffering only began after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, we will be quite mistaken. That may be the picture painted for us in children’s books or even in the Jesus Film, but Isaiah 53 prophesied what His whole life was really like:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
Despised, rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. There was no bright and beautiful face, no heavenly glow. He looked ordinary; John had to point him out to his disciples. The fickle crowd would praise Him one day and try to stone Him the next. Even His disciples do not understand Him and slept during His darkest hour in the garden of Gethsemane.
This was what He had chosen for Himself. Although He had at His disposal legions of angels, in obedience to the Father, He submitted Himself to suffer and eventually be crucified for our sins, because, as the choir sings, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all”.
You would expect Handel to use a solemn and judgemental mood for this famous chorus, but instead we find a light-hearted quick-paced piece reflecting the playful sheep wandering off – every one – to his own way. . . until “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Then the pace slows and the gravity of the situation is communicated in the minor key.
The baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas came to bear the penalty of our sins, opening the way to reconcile us with God and have peace with Him. Let us worship our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ with joy. Let us thank Him for His grace, mercy and love. This is the Good News.