Malankara World

Christmas - The Birthday of Jesus

For to us a child is born: Isaiah 9:1-7

by Stephen Sizer, VA

Scripture: Isaiah 9:1-7

If you were the real Father Christmas and you happened to visit a few hundred thousand churches today on a pre-Christmas dry run, I suspect you would find a common theme running through many sermons preached this morning. Marc Lawrence and Katie Ford wrote one of my all time favorite films Miss Congeniality. It’s about an FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock, who must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a group of terrorists from bombing the event. It has some classic lines – like when Stan Fields asks Miss Rhode Island, "please describe your idea of a perfect date". She replies, "That's a tough one. I would have to say April 25th. Because it's not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket". Or when Miss New Jersey is asked why it is called "The Garden State"? Gracie Hart replies, "Because "Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State" wouldn't fit on a license plate?" Each of the contestants is asked the same final question "what is the one most important thing our society needs?" They all reply "world peace" and the crowd cheers ecstatically. But when Sandra Bullock the undercover FBI agent is asked she replies, "That would be... harsher punishment for parole violators." And then after a long pause, she adds, "And world peace!" and the crowd cheers ecstatically. What does this world need most?

"World Peace" will be a common, predictable message we will hear on the TV and radio, in charity adverts and from pulpits over the next couple of weeks. The question is – how to achieve it? I believe the UN Declaration of Human Rights to be the finest and most important document devised by mankind. But human words will not bring about peace on earth. I support the humanitarian work of the United Nations wholeheartedly, but the UN will never achieve world peace through passing resolutions and by intervening with peace keeping forces. This week the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Church leaders in the UK called for military intervention to stop the killing in the Congo. I support that call, and similar initiatives in Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Palestine, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Columbia, and a hundred other places in our world where people are hurting one another, but the UN cannot resolve the underlining causes. That is because hunger, ignorance, poverty and disease are the symptoms not the causes. Only one person can bring world peace and one day he will. Jesus Christ. Among his people, among those who recognize him, who own him, who submit to him, he serve him, we can experience a foretaste of that peace he will most surely bring one day soon. Please turn with me to Isaiah 9:1-7 and let us meet him, let us learn from his names and learn of his purposes for us, for our families, for our world and for the future.

"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Lets note the context of this great prophecy. Despite Israel's rejection of God's word through Isaiah (8:11, 17, 19-20), God plans to give his people light again. The humbling of the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali refers to the invasion and annexation of the northern parts of Israel by Tiglath-pileser III in 733/732 B.C. "The way of the sea" almost certainly refers to Sharon or Philistia, while "Galilee of the Gentiles" is probably Gilead and southeast Syria. The Assyrians carved out three provinces for themselves from these areas. These lands, the first to feel the ominous tread of the warrior's boot (v.5), would be the first to see the new and great light God would focus on Israel.[1]

And that light would come through a supernatural sign: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14). Then in Isaiah 9:6-7 we are told more:

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Notice how the language is couched in the past tense. As Alec Motyer points out, the future is so certain, it is written as something which has already happened. It is as if Isaiah were saying, "Look forward to it. It is certain. He has already done it"[2]

Billy Graham has said, "Many may have expected that, in manifesting the terror of his majesty and the greatness of his love, God would rend the heavens and cause fountains of fire to burst upon the world – but he did not. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform." He chose to reveal himself supremely in becoming a human being. God and man in the same person – the only person as Billy Graham has said, "equally at home in heaven and on the earth". Of this unique person are given not one but four royal titles.

1. Wonderful Counsellor

The first word – ‘wonderful’ is most significant. In Hebrew it comes from a root word Pele, that is "almost exclusively used of the things that only God can do… something beyond human capability."[3] His Pre-existence was wonderful. His Conception was wonderful. No ordinary child was this. "Wonderful in his conception, not of man but of the Holy Spirit."[4] His Conception was wonderful. His Birth was wonderful. "When the angelic hosts called out "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Jesus brought heaven and earth together… Heaven and earth … united by the Babe of Bethlehem."[5] His Birth was wonderful. His Life was wonderful.

"He mingled with sinners, yet was sinless. He consorted with the rich men of his day, but "had no place to lay his head" … untainted by their gold. He associated with publicans but never partook of their sins. Hs enemies could find not one single flaw in his reproachless character." His Life was wonderful. His Teaching was wonderful. His Miracles were wonderful. His Transfiguration was wonderful. His Death was wonderful. "His vicarious death was a fitting climax to his selfless living. He lived for others. He died for others. When they scourged him, he opened not his mouth… When they jeered him, he said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."[6] His death was wonderful because he died for you, to reconcile you to God, to redeem you, to set you free. His Death was wonderful. His Resurrection was wonderful. His Ascension was wonderful. His return will be wonderful. Jesus is wonderful.

Linked with the word ‘Counsellor’ Jesus brings God’s supernatural wisdom. If ever our world needed the wisdom and counsel of Christ, it does today. And this wisdom is ours for the asking. Charles Simeon explains, "His people too he endues with "wisdom from above," enabling them to discern things hidden from the carnal eye, and guiding them in the way to heaven."[7]

As your counsellor He brings God’s wisdom to you.
As your counsellor He is always available.
As your counsellor He gives you His undivided attention.
As your counsellor He comforts you on the way to eternal life.
As your counsellor He guides you into all truth.

Yes, his name shall be called wonderful counsellor. Jesus is our personal Advocate, Counsellor and Defence. He is, as Billy Graham says, "equal to every emergency" the answer to every "problem in our lives." Wonderful Counsellor.

2. Mighty God

The second title confirms the implication of the first – that this child will be divine. As the writer to Hebrews explains,

"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. " (Hebrews 1:1-3)

For orthodox Jews, practicing Muslims and secular rationalists, the belief that Jesus is God in the flesh is anathema. Indeed this was the very reason the religious authorities crucified Jesus – for the claim to be God. Yet as we saw right through the Autumn when we considered the "I am" statements in John’s gospel, Jesus repeatedly took the name of God for himself. "Before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58); "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30).

As Charles Simeon points out, "Angels and magistrates are sometimes called gods in a subordinate sense; but He is "The mighty God," "God with us," even "God over all, blessed for ever." … Indeed, if he were not God, he never could bear upon his shoulder the government of the universe. He must be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, or else he never could hear the supplications, and supply the wants, of all his people at the same instant.[8] He is indeed, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God.

3. Everlasting Father

This title refers not to his divine title but the character he bears and the manner with which he cares for his children with father-like compassion and tenderness. The title defines his relationship to his people. Simeon writes, "The Jewish dispensation was intended to continue but for a limited time; but the Christian dispensation was never to be succeeded by any other: hence it is called "the last times;" and may be considered as "the everlasting age." Of this Christ is the author; it owes its existence to him as its parent; it is preserved by his guardian care; and the whole family in heaven and earth who participate its blessings, both bear his image, and inherit his glory[9]

He is literally "father of eternity" for all eternity he will deal with his children as a loving father.[10] Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God. Everlasting Father

4. Prince of Peace

The Hebrew word for peace is ‘Shalom’. It means so much more than simply the absence of war and conflict. The word signifies both prosperity and tranquillity. Jesus is literally the bringer of this peace, the Prince of Peace.

It is his nature. It is his passion. He is the bringer of this peace. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

The desire for peace is universal. Billy Graham says, "It is our nature to want to live [at peace] quietly, free from confusion, discord and strife." Perhaps that is why at Christmas, we long for peace. But this kind of peace will only come to the world, one person at a time, when we recognise Jesus as the Prince of Peace, the bringer of peace, the one who has made peace, reconciling us to God. For "He Himself is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14). Wonderful Counsellor because we are lost and blind; Mighty God because we are weak and powerless; Everlasting Father because we are dead in our sin; Prince of Peace because we all deserve God’s wrath. Having introduced us to our Saviour and Lord, Isaiah concludes,

"Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:7)

The Lord Almighty will indeed accomplish this. Harman summarises what we have learnt about the Messiah,

"Taken together, the terms speak of the child as one who will instruct with wisdom which is divine, who will act in power as the mighty God, who will love and care for his children eternally, and whose coming will bring lasting peace and blessing."[11] My prayer is that this message of Christmas will be good news to you and those you love. That Jesus will be a Wonderful Saviour to you, that he will be your Advocate and Counsellor, to plead your case before the Judge of the universe. I pray that Christ will be the Prince of Peace in your life, bringing love, joy and peace, this Christmas and forever more. Amen.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:16-21)

With grateful thanks to Travis Moore, James Davis and Brian Harrell for their sermons published on Isaiah 9 at www.sermoncentral.com

References/Notes

[1] Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary.

[2] Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah (Leicester, IVP)

[3] Allan Harman, Isaiah, A Covenant to be kept for the sake of the church (Fearn, Christian Focus), pp. 98-99.

[4] Billy Graham, "When God’s Son came to earth" Decision, December 1989.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Simeon, Charles: Horae Homileticae Vol. 7: Proverbs to Isaiah XXVI. London, 1832-63, S. 527

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Harman, op.cit., p. 99.

[11] Ibid.

See Also:

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