So, it’s been a rough year. Maybe not in actuality worse than others, but as a nation, we are reeling. Our news feeds have been filled with constant crises- conflict between ethnic groups, an embattled and shocking election, a string of deadly and destructive hurricanes, an avalanche of high profile sexual assault accusations, more embattled elections, and the list goes on.
Beyond national woes, we all face the daily realities of living in a world broken by sin. Sickness and death invade our communities and families. Job losses, relational conflict, and financial difficulties stress us out. Indeed, we hear the Christmas bells, but agree with Longfellow,
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
As challenging as this may be, it’s reason all the more to pause to remember the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. As Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 9:6-7,
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the LORD of Armies will accomplish this.”
In this prophecy Isaiah focuses on who this child is, what he will do, and what drives him.
He is the Wonderful Counselor, which is a reference to a war counselor. He’s not a therapist, he’s the one who knows the right strategy for dealing with sin. He is Mighty God, which means we need never pin our hopes to a mere man. Here we see the mystery of the incarnation: a child born who is Mighty God. Third, he is the Eternal Father—the provider for and protector of his people. Finally, he is the Prince of Peace—the prince who brings about peace through his victory.
After considering the identity of the child born, Isaiah focuses our eyes on what he will do—namely, set up the eternal kingdom of God. His kingdom “will be vast,” and its glory will never end. It’s David’s kingdom, fulfilling other promises God made in 2 Samuel 7:12-13. This links the child born to the string of promises God made to Abraham and his descendants. He will maintain this kingdom in absolute righteousness. Don’t miss this part—no more corrupt, abusive leaders. No more biased courts. No more mourning victims, just justice.
How can we be sure this child will do this? How can we be sure his mission will be successful? Because “The zeal of the LORD of Armies” will get it done. This is God’s passion, to rescue sinners and restore the world to being very good. It is not a human scheme, or some corporation’s long term plan. The work of this child born to us is the work of God himself. This kingdom cannot be stopped.
So Jesus was born. He became an adult. He was baptized and taught God’s Word and healed the sick. Finally, he achieved victory through humbling himself to death, even death on a cross in our place. He rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, and has now tasked us to preach the good news that his kingdom is here and growing.
Yeah, it’s bad out there. It’s bad in here, too. But the Christmas bells are ringing. Once again we can say with Longfellow,
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”