Christmas Day – 2016 LSB #’s 359, 412, 368
Text – Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; & the government shall be upon his shoulder, & his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The King Is Born!
We know the waiting & the anticipation of a birth. Though we live in a society that does not have a king, we know from England how they followed (& maybe we did, too!) the royal birth of prince William & prince Harry; then prince George & princess Charlotte.
Yet that monarchy is not really a kingdom as in the ancient world of Israel, where the king & his dynasty were everything – affecting the lowly lives of those over whom he ruled. Thinking of England, we might better recall Henry VIII & his obsession with having a male heir.
The king himself was the sole (& predominantly selfish) center & essence of the kingdom, around which everything revolved. He also was concerned with securing the future of the dynasty with a son, so any royal pregnancy was closely watched.
The nation of Israel was a people wondering if their kingdom would remain; a nation pinning their hopes & their future on the birth of a prince & the succession of the throne. If you listen carefully to the text from Isaiah, you can hear those well-known words as a royal birth announcement for a people who were under siege by the nations around them.
“Unto us a child is born!” But is it a boy? Yes! “Unto us a son is given!” And the ruling power will continue on his shoulder! And He will have throne names – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God – that proclaim His importance & power. The kingdom will endure!
Isaiah continues in 9:7, “Of the increase of his rule & of peace there will be no end – on the throne of David & over his kingdom, to establish it & to uphold it, with justice & with righteousness from this time forth & forevermore!” But then comes a striking reminder: “The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will do this!” Now, what does this have to do with us, dear friends in Christ, this Christmas, this year in our world & our culture that was founded on the principle of removing the king & establishing a society “of the people, by the people, & for the people”?
We know the dangers of a monarchy where everything revolves around the king. We realize how easily the “government can lie solely on his shoulders,” with little concern for anyone else, for all the men, women & children who want to work & play & be free.
Yet, there is always the temptation to think that “God is on our side” as a nation, or even individually, to provide for us the life we want. We are tempted to think that the “zeal of Yahweh of Hosts” will do whatever we think is best for us, even for our nation, because, well, haven’t we been the people of God?
The answer of our King is that the kingdom of God is “in the world, but not of the world.” Like ancient Israel, you & I are to remember that we’re involved with something unique, something grounded in our relationship with God.
On a holiday when much of the world around us at least recognizes something of who we are as “Christmas” people, that is, “Christ-centered people,” we celebrate today what it means for us in the “kingdom of God,” to hear the news that a “king is born.” We’ve been talking about this king for the last four weeks, as Advent has prepared us for this day.
We have waited with the hopes of a mother who is “expecting” – & with her the future of the kingdom. Today we hear the birth announcement: “A child – a son – is born.” This birth means for us what a royal birth means for a kingdom. First, the kingdom is secured, at least for another generation.
It may not look that way, as we wonder about all the forces working against what we confess as Christians. But remember; this is not just another kingdom; this is the kingdom of God. The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will do this. In fact, it is God himself who has come as King. That’s why this kingdom, the increase of His rule & of peace, will have no end! That’s why His justice & righteousness will be established from now & forevermore!
That is why we can truly celebrate this day, something that is far greater than just another holiday, even a “national holiday.” This kingdom is the kingdom of God, not just here, but everywhere, not like the nations, but for all nations!
Next, this King is indeed, the true essence of the kingdom. Everything does revolve around Him, but here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the King has come to serve, not to be served. Here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the King has come, not for His sake, but for your sake.
Here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the King has come because He cares for each & every man, woman & child, both those in His kingdom & those who have yet to come into His kingdom.
Here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: this King has come to give His life as a ransom, to “buy you back” from the kingdoms & the powers that want to control you, whether they be your own internal temptations, your personal sin, or simply that natural temptation to think the world & my God revolve around me, & my wants & my timing.
In truth, the King has come because of your needs: your need to be loved, your need to be saved; your need to be rescued, your need to be given a future & a hope & peace that will, like the kingdom, have no end. This is the king who would come to save His people. He will be called Jesus, because he will “save” His people from their sins.
And I declare to you this day – this holiday that really is a holy day – that Christ has come for you. Jesus has died for you. Christ is risen for you. Christ will come again – for you! That’s why Joseph was instructed to name the child Jesus, for He would save us from our sins. But our text gives us four throne names as well, typical of ancient kings. We don’t have time to unpack them all, but each one gives us a reminder of why this day, & this King, are so special, so different, so “one of a kind.”
In short, each pair has a name that could describe just another earthly king: counselor – every king was to be known by his wisdom & good counsel; mighty – every king was to be a good warrior; father – we even call George Washington the “father of our nation”; & prince – yes, kings were princes when they were born.
Yet to each ordinary name is given a most extraordinary twist: a counselor who does “wonders” – not just great insight, like the proverbial wisdom of Solomon yet someone truly extraordinary, with the power of God even!
The King who reigns in our lives is not just a warrior, or medal of honor winner rightly decorated for his valor, but the might of Yahweh Himself, who conquers all foes, human & superhuman; even the principalities & powers of spiritual darkness.
This King of kings & Lord of lords is One to whom we can pray, “Our Father in heaven,” for He is a King who loves us beyond comprehension & is ours from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus is the prince who brings a true & lasting peace, not like the world seeks & never finds, but that peace which comes only from knowing the King of the kingdom of God.
Dear people of God, a King is born; not just a sweet baby in a manger but a King who will reign forever. He came humbly. He came holy. He came for you to make you His heir. He came as the counselor of wonders. He came as the mighty God. He came as the everlasting Father. He came as Prince of peace. He came for you.
We pray, as He came & taught us, this day & day after day, “Thy Kingdom Come.”
Martin Luther reminds us that the kingdom will come, whether we pray for it or not, but we do pray that it may come among us & reign in our hearts. Today, the King has come. His kingdom is among us. We are His forever. Christ, a Savior is born! Christ, the King, is born! Amen.
To us a Child of hope is born, to us a Son is given, & on His shoulder ever rests all power in earth & heaven. His name shall be the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the God by all adored. His righteous government & power shall over all extend; on judgment & on justice based, His reign shall have no end. Lord Jesus, reign in us we pray, & make us Thine alone, who with the Father ever art & Holy Spirit one. Amen. LSB 412:3-6
Pastor Dean R. Poellet