Christmas Eve - Isaiah 9.2-7 - December 24, 2014
1) The prophet Isaiah gives us so many rich words describing our savior. One could spend hours unpacking the beautiful titles the prophet assigns to our Lord Jesus, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. But we must first turn our attention instead to two small words from the prophet. They are two small words which make all the difference in the world for us poor, miserable sinners. These two words summarize the entire doctrine of the Holy Gospel and without these two words, the preaching of the Gospel falls flat on the floor before it can reach our ears. It is true that the child of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger Wonderful, He is Counselor. He is the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. But all of these titles to describe who He is and what He does mean little in and of themselves until we understand two of the tiniest words in the text. The prophet, speaking 800 years before the Christ would we born, says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” “Unto us.” This is the key for rightly understanding this child of Mary. “Unto us” is the cornerstone for our contemplation of the birth of this child of the Eve of this Holy Day. For all that the child is and all the child does is worthless if He is not ‘unto us.’ Everything that He brings doesn’t matter a hill of beans if He doesn’t come ‘unto us,’ if He isn’t given to us, that is, for our sake and our benefit.
2) “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Not to anyone else. The child is not born for the sake of the angels for they do not need what this child brings. The angels, being both without bodies and without sin benefit nothing from the incarnation of the Son of God. If they needed salvation from sin God would have surely taken on the form of the angels. But He is not born unto them. Neither is the child born for His own sake, or for the sake of God the Father or God the Holy Ghost. The Triune God has no reason to assume human flesh for Himself. God, being God, is perfect and complete within Himself, so He stands to gain nothing by incorporating manhood into the Godhead. Nor was this child born unto sheep and cattle, dogs or cats or any other animal which has no rational soul. Having no souls they have no need of this child who comes to pay the ransom for souls. This child is born “unto us.” The Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father from eternity is given unto us because we are the ones who need Him. So on the night of Christ’s birth the angel appears not to the sheep but to their shepherds, “keeping watching over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8) That angel says to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) The angels echo Isaiah. His tidings are for ‘all people.’ For there is born ‘to you’ this day a savior. This child is given to all mankind as gift from God the Father. None of His titles matter if He is given to anyone else but us. None of His work matters if He is not given to you.
3) Why is this child given to us? God the Father sends God the Son to assume our human nature on this night so that He might save us from our sins. There really is no sentimentality in the church on this day that would cause us to cast aside THE reason for this child. Joseph is told by the angel in a dream that Mary “will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) So this child lying in the manger in a swaddling cloth will be put forth as the price for all our sins. This child is given “unto us” because all of us are sinners in need of redemption. This child is given to all mankind because all mankind fall under the condemnation of sin. This child, Jesus, is THE manifestation of God’s grace, so that any talk of the grace of God apart from Christ falls short. Jesus is given unto us. He is our savior, for that is what ‘Jesus’ means. As our savior, given to us by God the Father, He then becomes all of His glorious titles not for His own sake but for our sake.
4) He is Wonderful. His incarnation and birth cause of to marvel at His great love for us, the love that would drive God to become man and unite with us in such an intimate way. His entire work is wonderful and fathomless to our thoughts, for this child, who Himself is gift, gives sinners everything that is His by faith. His righteousness is given to us who have only the filth of sin and unrighteousness in our hearts. His innocence is reckoned to us who are guilty of all sorts of gross, despicable, unseemly sin. His blessedness as THE Son of God is given to those who have been child of the Devil, chained by sin and bludgeoned by temptation, so that by baptism we become sons and daughters of God. All this is Wonderful, something to be pondered, something on which to meditate, but something never to be fully understood by human reason or feeling.
5) This child becomes our Counselor. Not in the way that counselors are thought of today, listening to our problems and allowing us to fix them through our own rambling on. Nor is He a counselor to advise us what we ought to do in every decision we make throughout our days. He is our Counselor because He offers us the true counsel of the Holy Gospel. When our consciences attack us, reminding us of our sins and magnifying them in our sight, so that we can only see the enormity of our transgressions and guilt, Christ counsels us with His Gospel that our sins are atoned for for His sake. When Satan seeks to dredge our sins out of the sea of God’s mercy, there is Christ, speaking His counsel to us that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) When the world throws up our unworthiness to be called Christians, when the world persecutes us for observing all the wonderful things Jesus gives to us, Christ counsels us with His Gospel. You are baptized and so you belong to Him and have had your sins forgiven in those waters. You have been absolved of your sins, so your sins are gone from your eyes forevermore. You have been fed with the Lord’s Supper, so you lack no good thing in this life, having tasted Christ Himself. You have the Word of God in the pages of Scripture and preached from your pulpit. He bears the name Counselor because He is with us to comfort us in every distress from the Devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh that seeks to torment us.
6) He is Mighty God, though we celebrate Him as a lowly child today. He is Mighty to accomplish all that He promises, so that all His promises and counsel will not fall short and miss their mark. All His promises are good and true because He is Mighty God, able to perform all which He promises to us. He is Everlasting Father to remind us His relation to the faithful. Christ is not a tyrant. He is not a stern judge. Nor is He our therapist, our cheerleader, or a source of sentimentality for this season. He reconciles us to God our Heavenly Father. He teaches us this when He teaches us to pray, “Our Father.” Luther writes in His Small Catechism, “With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.” The Christ child, here to save us from our sins, forgives our sins and brings us to His Father, God the Father, so that we might belong to Him as His dear children. If God is now your Father, will He treat you terribly or as a servant or slave? He is Everlasting Father. By baptism you are His everlasting child, whom He loves and with whom He is well pleased. This child is also the Prince of Peace. His reign and government will be upon His shoulders and is one of peace of the soul and tranquility of the conscience, which is why His herald says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” He does not come to demand anything from you, but to give you every good gift and every perfect gift out of sheer grace and mercy.
7) So much more could be said about these titles and needs to be said about the titles the prophet gives to our Lord. They are a constant sort of meditation for us Christians not only tonight, but every day of the year. This child is given unto us for our salvation and as a defense against all the attacks of the Devil. As we ponder the manger of our Lord Jesus and the great paradise that it is for our souls, we must first and foremost ponder that this child, our Lord Jesus, is gift given “unto us.” He is all of these things, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, not for His own sake, but for us and our salvation. Let us give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and in Christ Jesus His mercy endures forever. Amen.