“Shout it aloud, do not hold back, raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.” Isaiah 58:1 NIV
Shout it aloud – For the next twelve days, we will look at one paragraph in Isaiah. As preparation for the coming of the Messiah, these verses will open our hearts to the real message of the birth of Emmanuel. They are all from Isaiah 58.
Isaiah 58:1 “Shout it aloud”. The verb (qara) means to shout out a summons. We should not think of this as an announcement but rather as a command to respond. In days when the town crier carried the news, we would have heard his shrill voice. “Listen and obey!” It is the voice of God speaking to His people. We see the same verb in the famous passage in Isaiah 40 where God promises comfort. But here the message is different. God requests a declaration of our sin. His people have turned to other priorities. His people have failed to exhibit His character. They have chosen love of self over love of others. And now God pronounces His judgment and remedy.
Christmas approaches, but without qara Christmas is nothing more than another break from the routine, a celebration of ancient tradition devoid of living power. Real Christmas is the invasion of God’s confrontation with our world. Can you celebrate the birth of Jesus without the sting of repentance? Millions do. They no longer hear qara in the voice of that baby lying in the animal stalls. They think Christmas is cheers and smiles and presents and parties. But Christmas is none of that unless . . . unless it is first an announcement of the end of this world’s domination over our lives. Christmas without confrontation with sin is insipid, weak and worthless. Jesus was born not to add a new dimension to the human plane but to shatter our self-sufficiency and egocentric excuses. Christmas is a declaration of war on this realm and only those who are dying in battle will hear the hope in the baby’s cry. The rest will celebrate false serenity. They will mark themselves casualties of contentment and comfort.
Isaiah 58:1 begins our journey toward Bethlehem. We cannot take another step without verse 2, an apt description of a nation that claims righteousness and worship but shows apostasy in its actions. A nation that presents the right religious show but lacks the heart of humility. A nation that prays with its lips but serves itself with its feet. We are that nation. An oxymoron of “Christian self-reliance”. God is about to put us to the test. Christmas is coming. It is time to prepare for the arrival of the Son. There is no Christmas without confession.
“Father, my heart has compromised with the world. I too rush toward contentment, fill my coffers with treasures, seek self-satisfaction. I have bartered with holiness. I have permitted myself the right to my own desires. My life is filled with consumption. I cry out to You. Heal me of this cancer. Strip me of my self-sufficiency. Let the baby’s cry become my call to battle. Invade my life and my world!”