Forming Faith Blog

Light in the Darkness (November 19, 2017)

Isaiah 9:1-7

Free Resource: Praying with Light (Kids: PK-2nd)

Unit Theme (November 12 – November 26): Promises of Hope

God promises to bring light to our darkness.

As with last week’s reading from Amos, our Narrative Lectionary passage is often seen as an Advent reading. This oracle is looking forward to a future time, a time of light and hope brought about by the promised messiah.

Different Interpretations

There are in fact (at least) two diverging interpretations of this passage, resulting in two different translations. The traditional Christian interpretation takes this as a prophesy of God’s future action, in which the Messiah brings about a change from darkness into light, oppression into justice, violence into peace. This is how the writer of the Gospel of Matthew interprets it (Matthew 4:12-17). The prophet images the Messiah (Jesus) here as a child, and has a list of titles, including “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father,” titles only appropriate for God, thus indicating Jesus’ divinity.

A different interpretation (and therefore translation) places the birth of the child in verse 6 in the past tense, something that has already happened. God already placed the authority upon the child’s shoulders. And, the titles in the last half of the verse refer to the LORD, who called the child the “Ruler of Peace.” In this interpretation, the child is Hezekiah, one of the few “good” kings of Judah in this period.

Who’s Right?

So, which interpretation is correct? I’m sure interpreters can argue about this day and night, but one thing to consider: prophecies can have more than one fulfillment. Perhaps the prophet originally wrote about Hezekiah, but also pointed to the future, when the Messiah will bring light to everyone. It could be that Matthew loved the imagery of this passage and thought it would be a perfect connection to what the Messiah was doing. We just can’t know for certain.

Not to say getting to the best interpretation doesn’t matter, but the Bible doesn’t always lend itself to clear-cut answers. But, we see that God, through some agent, has, is, and will bring light, hope, joy, and peace to a people who are mired in the darkness of fear, despair, and violence. A child of God’s choosing will bring peace.

Praying Light into the Dark

A good way to approach this text from a faith formation perspective that includes younger children is to focus on the contrasting imagery of the passage, especially that of light and darkness. Connect this contrast with sadness/fear and joy/hope. This is what the activity in our free resource for the week does. In the activity “Praying with Light” a simple liturgy is provided for participants to praise God for the blessings they see around them with the response of “Praise God, who brings light to dark places!” Participants may also pray for places of darkness around us.

This activity was created for our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th) curriculum, but you can adapt it for any and all ages, and even use it in worship. You can integrate the prayers in a scripted call-and-response, but I think that inviting participants to call out praises and prayers is an important part of offering this as a faith formation experience.

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

What are your thoughts? How are you planning to engage this passage in your faith formation context?

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

 

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to help in your preparation!

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