For unto Us a Child Is Born!
Text: Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
1st Meditation: “For unto us a Child is born!”
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.” (Luke 2:7)
The details are so familiar…are they not? We have read them countless times; many of us can recite them as did the children of the congregation again last night; we sing about; we write about them in Christmas cards and letters; they are the subject of countless pictures, paintings, and pageants—but do we ever really stop to think about them? Is it not strange that when God finally decided, after four thousand years of human history, to fulfill His promise to send a Savior, that He would send Him in such a way—born in a barn, rather than a palace; wrapped in strips of rough cloth, rather than in silk; placed in an animal’s feeding trough, rather than on a satin pillow? What is God trying to tell us? The Child who was born, after all, was His only-begotten Son—the Immanuel. Prior to His birth He occupied a throne in heaven and was adored by throngs of angels. It was He who called forth the universe as the eternal Word of God. It is He who sustains us even now. He was sent into this world to accomplish a work of universal significance. His life and work would touch the lives of everyone—man, woman, and child; ancient and modern…for the Scriptures assure us: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19) and “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). Yet, when He came, there was no fan-fare, no celebrations, no universal acclaim. Rather, there was the gentle lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep together with the adoration of a few country shepherds. It just does not make much sense…oh, but that is true only if we consider the details from the perspective of man. God’s ways and wisdom always seem foolish to unbelieving men. Mankind seeks redemption through power and privilege, but God knew the solution for mankind’s problem with sin would come only by means of the cross. A payment had to be made—a payment in blood for as the Scriptures again testify: “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Consequently, when the promised Christ-Child was born, He was born in the midst of great humility as He began His way to cruel Calvary—a journey He took for us! Therefore, let us with humble gratitude kneel and adore Him!
2nd Meditation: “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor!”
“But Simon Peter answered Him (Jesus), ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (John 6:68)
Our final four meditations will focus on the significance of the four names given the Christ-Child by Isaiah, the first of which is “Wonderful Counselor.” To what is Isaiah referring? A counselor is someone who dispenses information and advice. We might think of the President’s cabinet, or sometimes lawyers are called “counselors.” A “wonderful” counselor is someone who does so in an admirable, distinguished, and in this case even miraculous way. Jesus was sent by God to us with a message—a wonderful message filled with grace and truth (cf. John 1:17). There was a time early in Jesus’ earthly ministry when crowds flocked to hear this wonderful—this heavenly Counselor. They sat before Him on the mountain side and by the sea-shore drinking in the truths He offered. But there came a day when the fickle crowds walked away. At that point Jesus turned to His twelve disciples and asked: “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67) Peter, as was often the case, responded on behalf of the other disciples: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” You have the words of eternal life—think of the messages Jesus has to nurture your souls and mine. He beckons to us: “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He assures us: “If you abide in my word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). He comforts us: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hands” (John 10:27-28). He invites us: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). He warns us: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). He enables us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3). He accompanies us: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age!” (Matthew 28:20) Truly, He is our Wonderful Counselor!
3rd Meditation: “His name will be called…Mighty God!”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1,3)
The miracle of Christmas is the mystery of the incarnation—the fact that in Bethlehem’s stable so long ago God was made flesh. We cannot understand how it was possible, for how can the Creator become a creature? How can One who is limitless and whose presence fills all things assume the limits of the tiny body of a baby boy, such as Jeremy whom we brought to the Lord in baptism yesterday? How can He upon whom all things depend—upon whom we depend, become a Child so utterly dependent upon His mother—whose parents had to wrap Him up in the night and to escape by night to prevent His death by Herod’s henchmen? Yet, lying in that manger so many years ago was the Mighty God. He came—sent by His Father with a great mission on our behalf—to destroy the one with power of death, the devil, so that we might live our lives without fear of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14). To accomplish that goal, He would need His omnipotent power, for He would not fight against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers of evil itself. Yet during His earthly life He would walk this earth as an ordinary man, not making full use of that power. Oh, He possessed it and He demonstrated it at times, as we well know, while He walked this earth in ministry. He controlled the wind and waves of the Sea of Galilee, calming the storm while instructing the hearts of His disciples. He cast out demons from men such as Legion, providing him with opportunities to share the message of his good fortune with others. He gave sight to the blind—both physical and spiritual. He healed the lame, so that those who at one time could not walk could now dance with joy. He raised the dead, restoring an only son to his widowed mother, an only daughter to her grieving parents, and a dear friend to his two sisters! He as true Man was given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He reigns even now at God’s right hand protecting us from harm and providing for our every need. He always was; He always will be; He always is…the Mighty God our Savior! In view of that we need never fear. We can walk with confidence—seeking His direction, enjoying His protection, and resting assured that all will be well, for we can “do all things through Christ who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13). Truly the Christ Child is the Mighty God!
4th Meditation: “His name will be called…Everlasting Father!”
“We have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (1 John 1:2)
When Isaiah called the Christ-Child “Everlasting Father,” he was not confusing God the Father with His Son. Rather, the name is to be understood in this way that Jesus is the “father” or “originator” of all that will be “everlasting” for those who believe in Him.
Jesus came into this world to deal with our problem of sin. When confronted by their sin, Adam and Eve, were unable to deal with the problem or its consequences. There was not repentance, but rather finger-pointing and shifting of blame. We are really no better, for when confronted by our sins we all too often do the same. But God in His love graciously promised to send a Savior to heal the breach between God and man, and to deal once and for all with death—the greatest consequence of sin.
Before Jesus performed the great miracle of the raising of Lazarus, He spoke quietly to the grieving Martha and assured her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Do you believe this? Do you believe that those of our loved ones who have died and been buried will live again? Do you believe that should you die, you will live again? Do you believe that all those who place their faith and confidence in Jesus will never die eternally, but rather will enjoy the blessings of heaven forever? You should, for Jesus is the “Father” of every “Everlasting” blessing that God has promised you and with which you will be blessed throughout eternity.
The apostle Paul, as he approached his own death—a martyr’s death in Rome—assured his young friend Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
The gospel message that has won your heart and mine—which has led us in love to come here this morning to celebrate the Christ-Child’s birth—reveals to us “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us!” Jesus is the “Everlasting Father!”
5th Meditation: “His name will be called…Prince of Peace!”
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
The angels over the fields of Bethlehem sang out to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:14) There is very little peace on earth in Bethlehem today. An article in the Free-Press this past week spoke of the decline in the population of Christians in Bethlehem in recent years due to the violence perpetrated by various groups as they seek to gain and maintain control. This situation, and many like it throughout our world, have led vast numbers of people to conclude that the angels’ message, while something to be hoped for at sometime in the future, is certainly not a reality we enjoy right now. How sad! Such people may know the words, but they fail to understand their significance.
Jesus did not come into this world to fail—to live and to die for something that might happen at some time in the future. No, Jesus came to resolve a problem between us and our Father in heaven—your problem and my problem with sin! This He did with the result that the barrier caused by sin between us and our Father in heaven had been removed. We are at peace with God—a sweet heavenly peace. God claims us as His own dear sons and daughters. He invites us to address Him, as we will once again in a few minutes as “Our Father!” He wants us to come to Him, as dear children with complete confidence that He will both hear and help us!
What about the hatred and violence—the lack of peace within our world? Jesus has given us His peace—a peace which rests solidly on the knowledge that He is at God’s right hand watching over us right now. Oh, yes, this world is filled with troubles and those troubles can and do touch our lives from time to time. Yet, Jesus assures us: “I am with you!” (Matthew 28:20) He says: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid!” I will protect you; I will preserve you; I will enable you to overcome the temptations of this world. I am preparing a place for you and will come for you again. The world cannot take that peace from our hearts. It has sustained generations of believers before us and will continue to do so until the end of time! As we continue and then conclude our worship on this Christmas Day and then leave this house of God to reenter our world, may we do so with joy knowing that the Prince of Peace is and will abide in our hearts! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting