Do you need direction, light, and the truth? He is the Wonderful Counselor. Do you need a mighty champion to defeat the enemies of sin and death? He is Mighty God. Do you need permanent fatherly affection and protection? He is Everlasting Father. Do you need to be reconciled to God and your neighbor to enjoy peace and prosperity? He is Prince of Peace. Jesus the Mighty Savior will defeat all of our enemies: the world, the flesh, the devil, and death itself—enemies that we ourselves are helpless to defeat. He wins our salvation and safeguards our salvation.
Cut flowers. I have mixed feelings about this.
Yes, I love it when the fairer sex in our home carry in bunches of bulbs, roses, lavender, and hydrangeas from the garden. They brighten and cheer us all, but I think we all feel a bit sad when we cut flowers. We know that we have cut them off from their life source. We stand them in vases of water, but this can only slow the process of death and corruption. The flowers droop, the petals fall, the vibrant colors fade to brown, and then the whole bunch is crammed into the curbside bin with the other rubbish.
Christmas. Exchanging lavish gifts. Putting up a pine in the living room and decorating it to the tunes of Bing Crosby. Drawing together the family. Eating festive foods like ham on the bone, fruitcake, and rum balls. Why do people do this? “Because we have always done it, going back generations.” Yes, but what made our forebears do all this in the first place? What made them celebrate? It was of course the birth of Christ. Christmas was a general celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago.
Like cut flowers, Christmas is drooping because we have cut it off from the source.
But Christmas is drooping. We still do the good old things, but the petals are falling and the colors are fading. We can see a future when it will be tossed out altogether. Why? Because we have cut Christmas off from the source.
Let’s get back to the source. Let’s go back to the things that made us celebrate in the first place. We can’t reconnect cut flowers to the plant, but we can all reconnect to the Christmas history. It’s important to do this. Not to save Christmas—although that may come to be a delightful side effect—but ourselves. To be saved from meaninglessness, our sins, death, fear, and estrangement from God.
Isaiah 9:2-6: God Will Send a Child
In 740 BC the nation of Judah was frightened. To the north, the brutal Assyrian Empire was growing rapidly in power, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would descend to ravage Judah’s villages and homes. Then God told them not to fear because he was going to send them a child:
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest….
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 Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:2-3, 6;all Scripture quotes from NIV)
“The government will be upon his shoulders.” And this great prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem (Luke 1:31-33). He will carry the world in the direction he wants to carry it. He will rule—the future is on his shoulders. God’s people don’t have to live with fear and uncertainty.
The character of a ruler is of the greatest importance.
But what is the character of this Savior? God said through Isaiah to not be afraid because he will rule; but, what kind of ruler would he be?
The fact is, the kings of the day were never good men. Israel’s first king, Saul, was fearful and impatient; he disregarded God’s laws and turned to necromancy. David was Israel’s archetypal “good king,” yet even he succumbed to adultery and a murderous cover-up. Solomon succumbed to the idols of his gargantuan harem. Rehoboam was a hot-headed fool. And so on. There were very few useful kings in Judah, and all of them were flawed.
So we can understand if Judah heard Isaiah’s words cynically: A great king? Universal rule on his shoulders? Yes, but will he be good?
We too know all about bad leaders. Kaiser Wilhelm led the world into the sickening First World War. Mussolini led Italy into fascism and inspired Spain’s Franco and Germany’s Hitler to do the same. The Japanese warlords ravaged Southeast Asia. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao butchered their people. Petty leaders like Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Ratko Mladic were genocidal maniacs. Then there are arch-terrorists like Osama bin Laden and nuclear gangsters like Kim Jong-un.
Even the “good” leaders are fatally flawed.
The British and French general staffs of World War I were homicidally reckless with the millions of young lives under their command. The British Parliament’s appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s paved the way to the great slaughter of World War II. Roosevelt was manipulated by Stalin.