December 24th, 2012 Isaiah 52:7-10
Growing up, I thought the radio announcer had the coolest job: everyone listened to the announcer, even if the voice came through a tiny brown box with a mesh screen. People actually stopped to listen to what the announcer was saying; sometimes, they changed our lives forever.
Our first lesson features an announcer with just one message. Peace. It is a Hebrew word that we know, shalom, which includes peace and everything else that makes it all right. It describes our state of being when we say, “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.”
On the first Christmas Eve, angels appeared from heaven and said, “Glory in the highest, and upon earth, peace.” Shepherds heard the announcement of peace, and they in turn became the announcers of peace. Here the prophet is using two Hebrew words for the act of announcing. One is a common word with a clear meaning: it means to make you listen. The other word is not so common, but it has a beautiful image: You rub and show what is underneath, like a genie’s lamp.
What do we mean when we say we “announce” something? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the mission of an announcer has three important components: commission, content, and communication. The announcer receives and delivers. The messenger of the gospel also needs commission, for they are to deliver what they receive.
The announcement has content. The prophet describes the message as something good. In school, we learned: big-bigger-biggest; and what is the comparative of good? “Better.” Why? Originally, there was no comparative for ‘good,’ as there is no comparative for ‘complete’ or ‘perfect.’ We don’t say ‘completer’ or ‘complestest’ or ‘perfecter’ or ‘completest.’ Good is good. Period. It cannot be gooder, for it is already good and couldn’t be better.
The good tidings of salvation according to the prophet of Isaiah 57 have this wonderful line. “Your God reigns.” This was when Judah was in ruins after the Babylonian army ran over it and destroyed the temple and the city. Other nations were saying, “Your God is defeated. Or, your God abandoned you.” Many people of Israel would have felt the same way. Looking at the modern world of brokenness where the innocent are massacred, where good people suffer, philosophers have said, “God does not care for the world.” That was the prophet’s question, too. When hope was seemingly all lost, the prophet of old calls attention to the announcement: Your God reigns. Peace be with you.
There is one last step in the announcer’s job. The Dictionary explains that the announcement has a destination. On this Christmas, God says “Peace!” asking us to go and tell others to say the same. Complete the course. Jesus is born today. Take the good tidings to the world.
May the joy of Christmas be with you on this night and forever more!
© Reverend Jin Han 2012