Christmas and Isaiah
Isaiah the prophet
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools
To consider Isaiah’s prophecy about the arrival of Jesus.
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and one reader. Alternatively, two readers could share the words between them.
Reader: ‘Prepare in the wilderness a straight way for the Lord! Clear the way in the desert for our God!’ (Isaiah 40.3)
Leader: You are hearing here from the prophet Isaiah. He was an Old Testament prophet who lived about 2,700 years ago. Listen to what he has to say about himself.
Reader: I know that this will happen. I have prophesied this. The Lord has given me the words to use. I am his mouthpiece, his voice. They will hear him through me. We must be patient and wait. We will not be forgotten. He will gather us all together and we will be led to the Lord.
Leader: Isaiah was right. He was a prophet, and a prophet is someone who is used by God to convey his messages to the common, everyday people like you and me. A prophet is someone who believes that he or she has direct communication with God. It makes Isaiah very special.
Imagine what it must be like to be a prophet: not everyone you tell or talk to will believe you, yet you have absolute faith in your beliefs and convictions. You know that God is talking through you and what he is telling you.
God tends not to show himself directly to people, and this is for a very good reason. God is just beyond human comprehension – if God showed himself, fear, awe and shock would overwhelm us.
God has what some philosophers call ‘an epistemic distance from humans’. This means that God keeps parts of himself hidden, because the human mind simply cannot fully understand God as he is. This is why God uses prophets like Isaiah.
Reader: I know this: there will be signs – many and varied signs – to many new, interesting and special people. He will be called Emmanuel, meaning God is with us!
Leader: You may be wondering who Isaiah is talking about. However, in this season of Advent, it is not too difficult to work out. Christians believe that Emmanuel is Jesus. You may wonder why Christians use the Old Testament when they are talking about the coming of Jesus, but it is because they believe that Jesus fulfils many Old Testament prophecies. Christians believe that Jesus is the one who was chosen by God, and who was spoken about by the prophets before. Christians believe that Jesus is the Emmanuel whom Isaiah is talking about, and he is the one who will bring God to the people and reaffirm their relationship with him.
Advent is a time when Christianity is preparing and waiting for Jesus. This time of preparation also involves looking backwards to the roots of Christianity.
Time for reflection
Let’s think today about the ways in which people of faith believe that God shows himself to them: through prayer and reading holy books, through other people and through our inner voice.
May we be like Isaiah,
And look forward to the many and varied signs
That will be given to us throughout our lives.
May we heed them, and try to understand them.
Let us wait patiently until you are ready to show yourself to us.
Any appropriate Christmas song.