Below is an excerpt from my Christmas Eve message.
A Reading from Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 9:6–7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke. Luke 2:1–7
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.Luke 2:1–7 (ESV
Tonight in just a few short minutes, my aim is to inspire in you in a sense of awe and astonishment at the birth of Christ. I want to leave you after our time together in a posture of desiring to go home and make sure you spend time alone with God in prayer. I want to leave you with a sense of the holiness of it all.
The two verses we just read provide us with a fascinating set of perspectives. The reading from the Prophet Isaiah was written 700 years before the birth of Christ and foretold of a child that would be born. We’re told the government would be upon his shoulders. That his name would be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The imagery is that of a child that would grow to be a far more than we could ever imagine. His very nature would be other worldly. What this child would accomplish is unlike any other human accomplishment. Justice. Righteousness. Peace. Forevermore! This is one set of lenses to understand the incarnation. And we must put these lenses on during Advent lest we fail to understand the cosmic consequences of the birth of this child.
The Reading from the Gospel of Luke provides a second set of lenses into the entire historic moment. This passage describes the exact same birth as Isaiah, yet told through a very different, a very human lens. Luke tells us of the decree by Caesar Augustus. We’re told of a trip to Bethlehem in the ninth month of pregnancy. And ultimately, we’re told of a very simple birth, that in many regards was like every other child ever born. It is a birth that took place in the outlying countryside of Israel, in nowhere necessarily important, Bethlehem. The local inn, which in and of itself would not have been much, was full. It was likely a hospitable citizen of Bethlehem who opened their home to the travelers, a common courtesy of the day. In those days a few animals were kept in the home along the with manger for feeding them. And so Mary gave birth in a stranger’s home, wrapped that child in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.
Two perspectives on the exact same event. For just a moment I want to consider that behind our reality, our lived experience, there is a deeper reality taking place all around us. Behind every life circumstance that we often only see through one set of lenses, there exists a second perspective, God’s perspective. What He sees in the story He is writing that we call human history. From time to time the prophets allow us to glimpse into that second reality, to see beyond the curtain. And from time to time in each of our lives I suspect that we are caught up into moments where we too see beyond the curtain, and recognize with some clarity the awe inspiring profound beauty and worth of God and the story He is writing.
At Christmas we collectively stand in awe that the curtains were pulled back for us to see what truly took place that night when Christ was born. Yes, there is the pain and the humanity of the birth of a child. This human aspect to the story must not be missed, we must feel the humanity of it all. But something much more is taking place that we also must not miss. A child whom the prophets foretold. A child whom the angels proclaimed and sang of his birth. A child who holds the titles, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” A child who would grow to offer his life as a ransom for His Church. For as beautiful and full of glory as the birth of Christ is, the birth of Christ always points forward to his death and resurrection. We cannot see the beauty of the child born without reflecting on the brutality of the cross. It is the child whom all of history revolves around. It is this child whom every life will one day stand and give account. It is this Jesus, and the Alpha and the Omega, the one born and laid in a manger.
May you see the fullness of Christ this Christmas. May you be in awe of the miracle of the incarnation. May your homes be filled with a holy and reverent sense of the majesty of it all. May Jesus change everything about you. The one whom the prophets foretold, born in a lowly home, laid in a manger.