"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV).
Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah, well known to so many during this Christmas season, paints a radical picture of the Lordship of Christ. While this verse has come to be associated with serene winter scenes of country churches and bow-wrapped boxes under twinkling trees, Isaiah’s disruptive vision might be better suited to a call to revolutionary action at the margins of society.
Working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I now realize that our society is made more for some people than for others. Those same churches that grace Christmas card covers may ask families to leave so that their loved one with a disability will no longer “disrupt” services. Even sacred spaces can be hostile environments: stairs can prevent access rather than grant it, and a raised stage inadvertently communicates that ministry is reserved for the able-bodied.
The Kingdom-come disrupts a world at war to usher in Christ’s peace. This advent season, I pray that we will embrace the here-but-not-yet reign of Jesus. Under his rule, “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain” (Isaiah 40:4, ESV). The way is made accessible for God to come near in love and justice, bringing good news of great joy that will be for all people (Luke 2:10).
We do not submit to the Prince of Peace as a last-ditch effort of desperation. Our own strength will never make the world "right," nor will our collective brilliance show us the way forward. The gospel of liberation is not simply that we must work towards a peaceable kingdom, it’s that Christ’s kingdom reign has already begun. Through the cross, God reconciled all things – whether in heaven or on earth – to himself (Colossians 1:20). The Prince of Peace has come, and the Good News is spreading through word and deed and sign language and Braille that God is not a God of vengeance or wrath, but a God of compassionate forgiveness whose mercies are new every morning. God’s great and incomprehensible love is seeping into all things. It is the kind of love that heals creation, mends broken hearts, and restores shattered communities. It is a love that draws people together who have been torn apart and stiches together a world made new. This is peace. This is shalom. This is justice.
Over the advent season, even if you are caught in the clutches of disabling systems, struck by grief at the merciless mechanism of inhuman institutions, or overwhelmed by the thoughtless indifference of people near or far, know that the breaking news is good news. Just around the corner, clothed in meekness and majesty, lies the weakest among us who will save the world. God is with us. The Prince of Peace has moved into the neighbourhood.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14, ESV).
Keith Dow has been honored to participate in the faith journeys of people with intellectual disabilities in Canada in his role with the Organizational and Spiritual Life team at Christian Horizons. He studied philosophy at a small monk-run university in Ottawa and recently completed his PhD in theology through Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam with ethicist Hans Reinders. Keith’s work explores the faith-based ethics of caregiving. He is a credentialed pastor with Be In Christ Canada and is an elder with the Meeting House in Ottawa, Ontario. Keith lives in the country with his wife, three children, and their dog, Milo. He has a passion for seeing churches and neighbourhoods transformed by the gifts of people of diverse abilities.