In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
There was once a mighty man of God named Gideon, about 1200 years before Christ our Lord was born, who was not so mighty. (Judges 6:11-12) For he was hiding in a hole in the ground when Jesus—before He took on Flesh—appeared to him. And Jesus called him a “mighty man of valour”. Can’t you just see Christ our Lord appearing above this fearful fellow and staring down at him saying, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valour”? But humorous or not, God the Lord of heaven and earth called Gideon “mighty”. And this calling of the Lord changed Him so that He was braver than he knew how to be. For that’s what the Lord’s word does, it changes you, releasing you from the tyranny of sin and the fear of your foes.
So Gideon gathered thousands of soldiers from Israel together. For Israel was being oppressed by the mighty masses of Midianites—so many Midianites you couldn’t count them. (Judges 6:5) And he had a whole 22,000 soldiers. (Judges 7:3) It was something like 5 to 1 odds against them. (Judges 8:10) But the Lord said, “No, that’s too many. I will fight this fight for you. For you might think that if you won with 22,000 that you were pretty awesome. That you did it by yourself.” (Judges 7:2) So the Lord narrowed it down to 300 men. 300 vs. the hosts of Midian. No chance. (Judges 7:3-7)
300 handpicked men to watch over the whole flock of Israel. For the Lord chose these 300 by taking them down to the river for a drink. And everyone who stuck his head in water like a sheep was sent home. But the ones who lapped up the water with hand and tongue, like a sheep dog, they were chosen. So the Lord chose 300 sheep dogs to shepherd His sheep-like people. (Judges 7:3-7)
And when it came time to deal with the Midianites—who were invading the land and lay so thick on the ground that they were like locusts devouring everything (Judges 6:5-6)—Gideon split his 300 into 3 groups. (Judges 7:16-18) He gave each a big pot, a torch, and a trumpet. He put those 3 groups on 3 hills surrounding the Midianite camp. So that the sheep dogs of Israel were on the hills watching over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8) At Gideon’s command they took their torches out of their pots, dashed their pots on the ground, blew their trumpets, and with one voice shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:19-21) So that suddenly bright light blazed around the Midianites, jolting them awake by the crash and trumpet blasts, and they heard with one voice the message of doom to the invaders and freedom for the captive Israelites. And the countless Midianites were routed by 300 men in the day of Midian. (Isa. 9:4)
Some 500 years after Gideon Isaiah used those same images prophetically to speak about the coming of God in the flesh. For Isaiah was prophetically foreseeing that those shepherds watching their flocks by night (Luke 2:8) were a people walking in darkness who saw a great light. (Isa. 9:2; Luke 2:9) But those shepherds lived not only in deep darkness of night, but under the tyranny of an oppressive government, and the even greater tyranny of their own desires. For we feel like victims of desires we can not control, urges and thoughts we don’t like, but seem to come back again and again. You beat yourself up over them. You wish they’d go away. You think your mistreatment of yourself in mind or even in body will somehow make it go away, or make you stronger to beat it. But all your tyrannizing yourself does is make you miserable, even as those internal thoughts and urges shame you. And the good news for any who are tyrannized this night is that the light shines on your darkness. For Gideon’s sheep dogs it was a glorious light of victory. For the shepherds on the hill of Bethlehem it was a marvellous and terrifying light of angels. (Luke 2:9) For all the world it is that baby who is the light of the world shining into our darkness. (John 8:12) And it is terrifying for this light is death to your darkness. But Gideon’s sheep dogs were led forth in the joy of unexpected victory (Judges 7:21-22) just as you will be. (Isa. 9:3)
For the yoke of their oppressors was broken. The invading army was routed. (Judges 8:10) And everything to do with the deeds of darkness and the oppression of the Midianites was given to the purifying flames. (Isa. 9:4-5)
But Isaiah’s point was that the darkness which tyrannizes you was routed by the child who would be born, the Son who would be given. (Isa. 9:6) For the government would be on His shoulders, oppressing Him, with the lash of sorrow, and the cross of our oppressive desires, becoming your sin for you. (2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:4; 2 Pet. 2:24) And taking your oppression on Himself He is your Wonderful Counsellor. (Isa. 9:6) Your Mighty God. Your Prince of Peace. For His Counsel to you is peace from God in the highest heaven. (Luke 2:14) For Jesus is God’s goodwill toward mankind. Therefore His rule has no limit. (Isa. 9:7) For He called you to faith in the waters of Holy Baptism granting God’s favour to you. (Luke 2:14)
By this child the saving grace of God has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11) increasing the joy of all who hear and believe that this Child came for them. (Isa. 9:6-7; Tit. 2:14) For your sins and burdens. Releasing you from the tyranny of your own desires. (Tit. 2:12) Breaking its dominion. So that you are at peace with God. For He has removed from you the blood-soaked garments of war (Isa. 9:6) and passion. (Tit. 2:12) Replacing them with His robes of righteousness (Gal. 3:27) and garments of praise. (Isa. 61:3) Increasing your joy. Making you a mighty man of valour in Him. (Judges 6:11-12)
For just as Jesus, the Word made flesh, appeared to Gideon taking a fear-filled pip-squeak and giving him shouts of joy and songs of deliverance (Isa. 9:4; Ps. 32:7) so Christ our Lord has appeared to all mankind. (Tit. 2:11) Removing from you the broken boots of sin (Isa. 9:5) and giving you garments of glory. Having redeemed you from your works of lawlessness buying you with His own flesh and blood and innocent suffering and death. So that you might belong to Him and live in His kingdom in everlasting innocence, righteousness, and blessedness.
For to you a child has been born. A Son given. Not just gorgeous baby face to make googly eyes at and draw little smiles from, but God Himself. Strong to save. To save you, His child. For the shepherds have spread the news of the angels. (Luke 2:17-18) That the Child has come. God’s peace is yours in Him. (Luke 2:14) I pray you marvel at that news this day and treasure it in your heart. (Luke 2:18, 19)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church