The government shall be upon his shoulders
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
- Isaiah 9:6-7
Advent is a fantastic time in the year as we prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus, the Light of the World, into the darkness that is all around us. In advent we are connected with Christians across the world and down the centuries, who have read the same passages that we do each year, often through advent devotionals and carol services. It is also the time of the year when it is easiest to ask our non-believing friends and acquaintances to come to church and join us in the carols, mulled wine and mince pies, as we did last weekend at our church just outside Brussels. They, like us, will hear words from millennia ago that speak right into our current situation.
In Isaiah 9, we hear about a child who will be born, upon whose shoulder the government will rest and who will rule with justice and righteousness. Such an example of God’s perfect rule stands in stark contrast with the events at my work this past week.
The European Parliament has been greatly troubled this week. One of the EP’s Vice-Presidents has been arrested in relation to allegations of corruption and influence buying by Qatar (and other countries in the region). The press here has published pictures of the large quantity of cash seized in one raid. An office on my corridor was sealed by the police, with police tape and a stern notice placed on the door.
The allegations are that MEPs received money from agents of a foreign country in return for voting for policies that favoured that country; that they made personal financial gain their prime motivating factor rather than the European public good. More plainly, they are accused of being paid to vote in a certain way, even though it may have been contrary to the interests of the people who put them in their position of authority.
Such events corrode public trust in politics and politicians. And it is not just the European Parliament affected. In the UK, the case of Baroness Mone is just one of a host of accusations that friends of Conservative Ministers benefited hugely from a VIP lane to secure government contracts during the pandemic, avoiding the normal controls and scrutiny and greatly enriching themselves. A Government Minister even resigned because the Treasury had given up trying to recoup over £4 billion of covid business loans that had been fraudulently obtained, with the claim being made that the government had "allowed fraudsters to steal billions of taxpayers' money”.
But in the midst of all this darkness of sin, corruption, and fraud, our minds are turned at advent to the King who will come. He will rule from the throne of David, establishing and upholding it, with justice and with righteousness. This is our hope, the hope of the world, this Christmas and for always and ever. Our faith is not in MEPs or Government Ministers. Our faith is in the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Our faith cannot be shaken because Christ defeated all sin and death by dying in our place on the cross and rising again victorious.
This is the advent message. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. This was what I and other Christians were holding onto and holding out as a point of light during the darkness that was so present this week in Strasbourg. We are fallen sinners in a sin-sodden world. But to us a child is born, to us a son is given.
Come Lord Jesus