I grew up with Summer Christmasses. Mangoes for breakfast. Cold meats for lunch. Backyard cricket. Swims and BBQs. I loved them: but biblically speaking, a summer Christmas is a contradiction in terms. Christmas is not a celebration of our sunny circumstances. Christmas dawns in the darkness.
That’s what Isaiah prophesied in chapter 9. It’s a famous Christmas reading, written 700 years before the Christ-child was born:
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
Isaiah was facing a terrifying army sweeping down from the north. The people were “in the land of the shadow of death.” It seems that he had been meditating on Psalm 23, which uses the same language. What possible “light” could dawn on this devastating darkness?
Again, Isaiah reminds the people of Immanuel. He will bring peace when war threatens to swallow them whole (v3-5). It’s the Messiah who will shine upon this hopeless situation: a rising sun, an other-worldly Light.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
It might seem odd, but the one hope for a people “in the land of the shadow” is a baby. Of course not any baby – this boy will be called “Mighty God.” That’s a tough name to live up to! Unless of course He is the Mighty God. And then the name fits.
In fact “Mighty God” is a title unpacked by the other three names: Wonderful Counsellor, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. This son is Himself the Prince, but in Him dwells the Father and the Counsellor, such that the fullness of deity dwells in this child.
He comes to sit on David’s throne, just as promised. The Prince of Heaven comes to establish His reign on earth. The Mighty God comes for man and as man. And like a Good Shepherd hoisting a wayward sheep onto His shoulders (Luke 15:3-7) so Christ comes to take the government on His shoulders. He will march us through that darkened valley and out into the sunshine of His resurrection.
And what part do we play? We don’t. “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” We would only get in the way. No, the whole character of the Messiah’s work is such that we can only be grateful beneficiaries:
The Light shines. How can we remain in darkness? The Prince carries the world on His shoulders, how can we take it on ourselves? The Son is given to us. How can we not receive Him?