Happy Epiphany, from Isaiah via Jürgen Moltmann

A reading for Epiphany:

Isaiah 9:2-6

2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For 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.

Commenting on Isaiah 9:2-6, Jürgen Moltmann says,

Emperors have always liked to be called emperors of peace, from Augustus to the present day. Their opponents and the heroes of the people have always liked to be called liberators…. They have come and gone. Neither their rule nor their liberation endured. God was not with them. Their zeal was not the zeal of the Lord. They did not disarm this divided world. They could not forgive the guilt, because they themselves were not innocent. Their hope did not bring new life. So let them go their way. Let us deny them our complete obedience. “To us this child is born.” The divine liberty lies upon his shoulders….

When God is God in the world, then no one will want to be anyone else’s Lord and God anymore….

But is this really possible here and now, or is it just a dream?….

The New Testament proclaims to us the person [the divine child in Isaiah 9] himself. He is Jesus Christ, the child in the manger, the preacher on the mount, the tormented man on the cross, the risen liberator.

So according to the New Testament the dream of a liberator, and the dream of peace, is not merely a dream. The liberator is already present and his power is already among us. We can follow him, even today making visible something of the peace, liberty and righteousness of the kingdom that he will complete. It is no longer impossible. It has become possible for us in fellowship with him. Let us share in his new creation of the world and—born again to a living hope—live as new men and women.

The zeal of the Lord be with us all.

— Jürgen Moltmann, “The Disarming Child,” from The Power of the Powerless (ca. 1974)

2 Responses to “Happy Epiphany, from Isaiah via Jürgen Moltmann”

  1. MDM says:

    All to often the peripatetic’s word awkwardly grinds out large schemes of thought processes — especially in today’s reason saturated market of thought – and we, the audience, are lost. However, Moltmann circumvents this trend and really hits the reader hard; both logic and poetry are fast at his side regarding Isaiah and his message of the eschatological (or history-reversing) Prince of Peace.

    And yet he is not condescending to the popular audience, but rather he meets the text’s original meaning half-way, as Isaiah 9.2-6 is not just flowery poetry but figurative, dense language that resonates of sound reason — all emperors claim or exalt their cult of peace and prosperity, like Augustus had once done. But their zeal is misplaced and pampered, for they have not had the opportunity of gracing the “bar across their shoulders”! Jesus was able to somehow handle or withstand such a paradox…

    Discomfort and destruction and death skirmishes around us; how does one cope? In other words, how does one both stay true to the present remnants of fallenness (idolatry and sin are alive despite Christ and cross; sin still has its skirmishing cells) and anticipate the (near) completion of cosmic redemption? — Philippians 1.6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV). Yes, I guess that’s the (fools?) hope anyway… Though dancing like a joker in the jaws of this contemporary empire can sometimes open our mortal eyes uncomfortably wide to the fact that at any moment we can slip and fall (I have borrowed this imagery from a powerful song by Bruce Cockburn’s “Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws”).

  2. MJG says:

    Well said, MDM—a bit poetic as well.

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