“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.” (Isaiah 9:2)
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, 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 Lincoln’s legacy.
A few months later, hoping to lift his spirits, the church sent him to the Holy Land — and that visit stayed with him. 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.
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Advent is here, 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.
God answers our anxiety with a manger in Bethlehem. There we find the baby 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.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
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.
Darron L. Edwards Sr. is lead pastor of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri.