Christmas reading

I have volunteered as a reader in the services at our church. I was assigned to read the Old Testament lesson at the 9:30 PM Christmas Eve Eucharist last night, Isaiah 9:2-7.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
    On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
You have made the nation great;
    you have increased its joy.
They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest,
    as those who divide plunder rejoice.
As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them,
    the staff on their shoulders,
    and the rod of their oppressor.
Because every boot of the thundering warriors,
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned, fuel for the fire.
A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
    and authority will be on his shoulders.
    He will be named
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be vast authority and endless peace
    for David’s throne and for his kingdom,
    establishing and sustaining it
    with justice and righteousness
    now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this.

This is one of the great texts of the Bible, and I was delighted and honored to be selected as the reader. I have heard it countless times before, e.g. in Handel’s Messiah. However, since I had to actually read it in public, I read through it several times in advance. All very well, but one of these lines from c. 600 B.C. seemed particularly odd in the 21st century.

as those who divide plunder rejoice.

Until the next morning, when it was time to open Christmas presents. Seeing the anticipation in the younger members of the family, it seemed quite appropriate.

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