Isaiah 9:2-7 December 24, 2020 Luke 2:1-20
Do you remember that old TV show, “Laverne and Shirley”? There were two funny characters in their apartment building—Lenny and Squiggy—and their moronic voices added a lot to the show. When one of them would tell the other to do something, the response would be, “I’m not your SLAVE!” That was actually a very accurate rendering of a phrase that was popular in the 60’s—and I can clearly hear my sister saying the very same thing to me!
In the 70’s, the whole country tuned in to watch ROOTS—Alex Haley’s epic story of tracing his family line back to Africa then bringing the characters forward through history. We all saw slavery in a new way—saw the real human element in that inhuman institution (which, by the way, is still being practiced all around the world—illegally, of course). I hope we can all agree that slavery is a bad thing.
Now comes a question: Are you a slave to anyone or anything? I know people who are a slave to their job; others who are a slave to alcohol or drugs or cigarettes or chocolate; others who are enslaved to personal beauty or fitness; others to applause; some who are enslaved to an abusive partner; and, I am unhappy to report, many of us are enslaved to the almighty dollar.
Liberation from Slavery
Our Bible verses for tonight are about liberation from slavery.
Remember with me that the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt—for about 400 years. God used Moses to get the Hebrews out of Egypt and moving toward The Promised Land. But the people were not ready to be self-governing, free people yet, so they weren’t ready to enter The Promised Land. They had to wander around the wilderness for 40 years while they 1. Learned God’s lessons and 2. Grew into a nation that was ready to move into the land that God had been preparing for them.
–Just because they were free from Egypt didn’t mean that they weren’t still slaves. They still had to grow out of their slavery.—
We remember this history as we consider our passage from Isaiah: “For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, you have BROKEN as on the day of Midian.” This is a passage about liberation from slavery and oppression, part of a longer section that talks about the coming Messiah. It continues, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The image of the coming Messiah is that of one who will break our yokes—free us from slavery—and that is the purpose of the life of Jesus Christ. “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Tonight we are celebrating the birth of our Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and we proclaim that he is breaking the yoke of every kind of slavery, every kind of oppression!
Moving Into the Promised Land
But wait! There’s more! Moses liberated the Hebrews from Egypt, then spent 40 years liberating them from the spirit of slavery. In the same way, Jesus wishes to help us “move into the Promised Land” and grow into the people God means us to be.
Hear these words of Jesus, and take them to heart: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your very souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The yoke Jesus offers us is not the yoke of slavery. The yoke Jesus offers is an invitation to partnership! Picture two oxen, yoked together. One is older, stronger, more experienced, and this one helps the other one to accomplish the task. We are invited to be yoked to Jesus!
Isaiah tells us that authority rests upon his shoulders. It’s truly there because Jesus willingly took it up when he went to the cross for you and for me. And now he invites, “Take my yoke upon you—learn from me—for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Friends, you and I face our slaveries every day. No matter what it is that enslaves us, we can look at them squarely and say, “I’m not your slave! God broke the yoke! Now, I’m yoked up with Jesus, and we are partners in His work!”
Prayer: Jesus, we are celebrating your birthday. And we pray, “O come to us; abide with us; be born in us today.”