The spotlights flicker on and the TV cameras come into focus, trained on two people in dress clothes duking it out on the stage. They fling as much personal and political mud at the other as possible in order to make themselves appear as the better candidate. Meanwhile, the reporters critique and criticize and the crowds eat it up, their opinions shifting like a boat on a stormy sea, depending on what shocking new revelation they have just seen in their Facebook news feed. Freedom to live and believe those things that are most important to us is slowly being pulled from our grasp, all in the name of "tolerance" and "freedom of speech". All the while, that star-spangled banner that waved so long ago over Fort McHenry is slowly slipping from the pole, its foundations demolished by the shifting winds of culture.
Toward the end of the 8th chapter of the book that bears his name, Isaiah paints a pretty dark picture for his readers. He has just finished imploring God's people to return to His love, and he is outlining the harsh consequences that naturally follow from a life of disobedience.
"Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness." (Isaiah 8:20-22)
But, suddenly, in the very next chapter, hope begins to dawn again, and from the most unexpected of places. It is not promised through a powerful king or a mighty army; it is promised through the humblest of avenues: a helpless baby boy.
"For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from
the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity."
The only hope for the star-spangled banner; for the world, for that matter, will not be found in the Oval Office. The only end to this seemingly endless darkness and despair will not come through the ballot box. The only hope for the world can be found through understanding that a child has been born, and that He was born for us. And someday soon, He will set up His own kingdom, and all will again be restored to right. There may be darkness, and there may be despair, but long after the flag has fallen, our hope will still remain.