As the word of the Lord came to the prophet Isaiah, Israel was going through a dark time. The northern kingdom had been conquered by the Assyrian king and his forces. Many of the people of Israel were deported and replaced with foreigners from the Assyrian kingdom. For many in Israel it must have been unthinkable that God would allow Israel to be conquered by a foreign, pagan power.
In these dark, depressed times God speaks a word of promise. A great light appears to people walking in darkness. It can be argued that we, too, walk in dark times. We live in a world at war with terrorism. We live under the threat of weapons of mass destruction. There is poverty and injustice experienced by millions. So many people are living in spiritual darkness. Things may be bad. But there is hope .God has not abandoned his people. He is about to act. He will send the Messiah-King into the world to rescue all people from sin and death.
The prophet Isaiah mentions the titles that Lord God will give to his Messiah-King. Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Let’s have a look at these titles, one by one.
A lot of people turn to human counsellors these days. Counsellors listen to people express their fears, misgivings, needs. Counsellors discuss various courses of action with their clients. Counsellors encourage their clients to make and own their final decisions. Jesus is the Wonderful Counsellor. He knows the needs of every individual person. He is aware of the problems in people’s lives brought about by the sin disease. He knows the fears, troubles, disappointments experienced by people. From eternity God planned to send this Counsellor into the world. God laid out his plans and pointed to them in promises he made to the patriarchs and prophets. God promised that a Saviour would come into the world. These promises were fulfilled when Jesus the Wonderful Counsellor arrived on the scene.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us. That’s the great news that we share at Christmas. And this child is no ordinary child. He is true God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And yet he sets aside the power and glory that belong to him. He takes on the form of a human being. He is born in humble circumstances; he leads a holy life in obedience to God’s will; he suffers and dies on the cross to make payment for the sin and guilt of humanity; he rises from the dead and give eternal life to all who believe in him. As we celebrate Christmas we see God showing might in the child in the manger at Bethlehem, in the man on the cross at Calvary, in the empty grave which once enclosed Jesus. Perhaps we might expect to hear the might of God in a big booming voice, to see God in the brimstone of fire and judgment. With the eye of faith, faith given by the Holy Spirit, you and I can confess that the child born in Bethlehem, is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. We bow the knee before this Jesus and say with St Paul:
Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles,
believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)
In the Book of Revelation we learn that John had a vision of Jesus. Jesus says: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13) Jesus always was. The world and the universe has its origin in Jesus. In the Gospel St John states:
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1: 3)
We take our purpose and meaning from Jesus who is one with the Father.
Prince of Peace
Jesus came into the world to establish peace between his Father and sinful human beings. He accomplished this not with the aid of guns and tanks, not by purchasing our freedom with economic wealth, but by his death on the cross. Because of all that Jesus did for us, we now have peace with God.
Suppose that someone hands you a Christmas present and says: I am giving you this because I love you. After taking off the bright wrappings you find in the parcel a book with a title about self-improvement, and though it may contain some good advice, you may or may not appreciate such a gift given the innuendo it may bring of your status before the gift giver.
But the great loving gift that God offers is peace. In fact, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who offers true and lasting peace to people. Unfortunately, many people do not want the peace that Jesus gives. Once again, as we celebrate Christmas, we thank God for the wonderful peace that Jesus gives, a peace which the world cannot give or take away.
Christmas is a busy time. There is the constant rush of Christmas parties and end of year activities. But it’s wonderful to be able to gather with Christians at church and focus on what Christmas is all about. It’s good to hear again the message of God’s love to us in Jesus. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us. He is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The love, joy and peace of Jesus be with you. Amen.