Christmas is a Promise Kept
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6
Perhaps there is a more profound Christmas bible verse, but I cannot think of it.
Seven centuries before the event, the wonderfully quotable prophet, visited by the Holy Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, saw a remarkable scene playing out in Bethlehem, the city of King David's birth. I need not describe that scene, nor do I know to what extent Isaiah foresaw the dirty details of the most famous manger scene in human history. I would rather, at this moment, focus on the power and scope of Isaiah's promise.
Yes. I said promise. Biblical prophecy is more than a prediction; it is a promise. It is writing history before it happens. Its contents are holy currency. You can bank on its fulfillment. (That goes for the promises fulfilled and those yet to be.)
So, let's break down this kaleidoscopic promise with its many-hued patterns of wonderment and beauty...
In our text's most immediate context, Isaiah is addressing a distressed nation. He sees a people suffering under poor leadership and from bad governmental decisions, a people captive and subjugated to foreign forces. Chapter nine of his prophetic book begins with the words "Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever" (New Living Translation).
So, when he says "unto us," he is primarily addressing Israel, but in the greater sense, all of those who follow Jehovah and hope in him, a "spiritual Israel," is you will. So, you. And me. Whatever your nationality.
A child is born
This Promised One will enter the world of ordinary men and women in the ordinary way (with one rather notable exception relating to his conception). He will be born, a baby, discolored, messy, crying, kicking, pulled from the haven of momma's womb and pressed into a great big world. Just like you. Just like me.
A son is given
Here is Isaiah's hint that this child born to Joseph and Mary was more than other children born to other parents. He was already Someone's Son. He "belonged" to the eternal and was given to those trapped in time and circumstance.
The government shall be upon his shoulder
It is not difficult to understand how the people of Israel turned from Jesus Christ when it became obvious that He was not the revolutionary they had hoped. They gave him the hero's welcome when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Scant days later, they sent him from the city's limits to Golgotha, under the weight of a brutal cross, to die a criminal's death. He was a disappointment to them. They had hoped for a coup, for someone to overthrow the over-taxing, overbearing Roman rule. He was sent to unshackle the sinner, not to free the citizen. His assumption of the throne of Israel was a thing deferred. He would not assume the throne in their lifetime.. Perhaps not in our lifetime either.
When He does, it will be forever. But not yet.
The governments of the world unite on very few things, but they seem inevitably to speak in unison when it comes to hatred for the nation of Israel. The recent UN vote that saw 126 nations denounce America's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capitol is only the most recent example. Still, as governments and people rage against Jehovah, against Israel, against Christ, against His church, as governments continue to wander down the treacherous paths of endorsing sin and normalizing deviance, there is this undergirding truth...the Government of humanity is squarely on His shoulder.
What shall we name Him?
Isaiah had a few ideas:
- Wonderful - Even the nonbeliever knows this about Christmas: "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Non-Christians look for ways to coopt and celebrate the spirit of Christmas, even if they refuse to celebrate the child whose birth would bring such wonder.
- Counsellor - in every sense of the word. Legally, He is our Advocate. He pleads our case before the Holy Father. But He is there also to counsel, to guide, point us in the right direction, to get us through the "rough patches" in our lives.
- The mighty God - His strength is made stronger in our weakness. He is able to PREVENT trouble if He chooses. He is able to PROVIDE and PROTECT, regardless. He is mighty to save, as the late evangelist B.R Lakin said so often, "from the guttermost to the uttermost." How many ruined lives and wrecked homes have been salvaged and transformed by the redeeming power of Jesus Christ?
- The everlasting Father - The son of Mary is the everlasting Father of the redeemed. He said, "I and my Father are one. He who has seen me has seen my Father." I thought about this verse Saturday while celebrating Christmas with my Mother, my siblings, and our families. My brother, ten years my junior, is the "spitting image" of my Dad. He looks like him. He talks like him. He has a similar sense of humor. If you never met Dad, just hang out with Don. But Jesus is more than the "spitting image" of the Father. He is one with the Father. BY Him, because of Him, through Him, we cry to God, "Abba (Daddy), Father." Without Christ, we would have a "mighty God" but not an "everlasting Father." That would be the most frightening prospect for mankind. With Jesus, I am still a sinner, guilty as a hound dog, but the judge is my Dad and the defense attorney is the judge's boy and has assumed, with the judge's approval, the penalty for my sin. The whole thing was rigged by the greatest heist in history, when Jesus snatched the "case closed" verdict from Satan's hand and wrote in His own blood, "Not guilty!" Dad said, "I agree. He's clean. He's free. He's Mine.
- The Prince of Peace - in a world of turmoil (slightly exacerbated by Twitter and Facebook), where fat little rocket men fire missiles for attention, where nations unite to ostracize, marginalize, and condemn Israel, where atheists foolishly rent billboards to encourage people to skip church on Christmas (thus spending money to fight against a God they deny exists), where parents decide to delay or deny something as simple as declaring the gender of the child trusted to their care, where pre-born babies are slaughtered like chickens at the altar of promiscuity and/or convenience, where the good is declared evil and the evil hailed as good...in a world of chaos, there is a peace that defies comprehension, that breaks with convention, that thrives on compassion, that steels the nerves and steadies the course for the Christian. That little fellow, face, fingers, and toes blue in the frigid air of the unlikely nursery (a stable), his cries piercing the silent night, that little Jewish boy born to a teen mom on a cold night in a faraway place and time...He is a Prince. Not a palace prince. He's the people's prince. He's the Prince...of peace.
"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head." And he slept.
To quote B.R. Lakin again, "He went to sleep now and again, but when he woke, business picked up in town."
He was busy about His Father's business: breaking chains and keeping promises.