It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving has passed, the stores are decorated, Christmas trees are up, and the big day has almost arrived. With that, it’s time to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.
One of my favorite Christmas programs of all time is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special by Charles Schultz. A few years ago, I wrote a blog article entitled, Wishing You a Charlie Brown Christmas.
In this classic, Charlie Brown found himself – in the midst of a materialistic, misguided society – searching for the true meaning of Christmas. He sensed a void that just could not be satisfied by the fame of directing the local Christmas program or the decor of his ever-so-famous Christmas tree. When his frustration finally boils over, we find him screaming, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”
Enter Linus. With a child-like simplicity and sincerity, he presents the message of Christmas found in Luke 2. Jesus – sent from Heaven by the Father, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, heralded by angels, and worshipped by humanity – was God’s gift to us. As Isaiah prophesied in 9:6-7, He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and the One who would bring order and justice. He came at a time of great turmoil. The religious leaders were vain, the government was corrupt, taxes were increasing, sin still plagued humanity, and God had seemingly not spoken to His people in nearly 400 years. Then, enter Emmanuel – Jesus, the one who is “God with us.”
“That, Charlie Brown,” recounts Linus, “is what Christmas is all about.”
Shortly after Thanksgiving, I saw a Facebook post that talked about “Black Friday” – the mega-madness shopping day that occurs every year on the day after Thanksgiving. It read:
“Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have”
It’s easy for even the best of us to get sidetracked during the holidays. We get stressed with crowds, the busyness of work, the financial pressures of gift giving, the memories of lost loved ones, and more. So this year, once again, I want us to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
By focusing on Isaiah 9:6 (taken in context of the prophecy that begins in Isaiah 7), we find 4 aspects of Jesus’ presence that help us unwrap the true meaning of Christmas.
Isaiah 7 begins with the interaction between Isaiah and King Ahaz when Judah (time of the Divided Kingdom) is facing attack from Syria and Ephraim (Israel of the Northern Kingdom).
God sends the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz:
- With counsel from the Lord
- That God’s strength would be demonstrated in destruction of the enemies
- In order to keep His everlasting covenant by preserving a remnant
- And Ahaz should therefore fear not
Isaiah instructs Ahaz to ask for a sign – as God’s proof of His Word and evidence of Ahaz’ faith in God’s word – but Ahaz refuses. Therefore, Isaiah says the Lord will give a sign (7:14), and that sign will be the Christ child. In the chapters that follow, Isaiah expands this prophecy to the remnant who would trust God.
Chapter 9 details the coming of the sign, the Christ child, who will fulfill all four (4) aspects of the intended message to Ahaz. In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah says that Jesus’ name shall be called:
WONDERFUL COUNSELOR – The Gift of Guidance
Whereas Ahaz refused the counsel of Isaiah, the Christ child would be the Wonderful Counselor whose direction and counsel is sure.
Some versions translate this section as Wonderful, Counselor as two different descriptors. Taken contextually however, it seems most appropriate to use the words together as one title with Wonderful describing the type of Counselor He is (consistent with the other renderings of Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace). The word “wonderful” refers to something unusual or extraordinary, full of wonder. The point is that there is not another Counselor like the Lord Jesus.
A counselor is one who consults, advises, gives direction, and imparts wisdom (the proper application of knowledge). Experience what the Scriptures say concerning Jesus:Luke 2:40 – The child (Jesus) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him. John 16:13 – The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of truth, who guides us into all truth. Proverbs 15:22 – Plans go wrong for lack of advice (counsel); many advisers bring success.
A very basic and practical illustration is that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is like a personal guidance counselor who keeps us on a path of success. The Holy Spirit who inspired the written Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16) still inspires, instructs, reveals, and guides. Jesus is the One who will never lead us astray. Do you need direction, guidance in dealing with a pressing situation, or wisdom? Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor!
MIGHTY GOD – The Gift of Strength
Whereas Ahaz refused a sign to assure victory over his enemies, the Christ child would demonstrate God’s strength by overcoming all our enemies – even our spiritual adversary Satan and the enemies of sin, death, Hell, and the grave.
Deuteronomy 10:17 NLT says, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.”
“El Gibbor” is the Hebrew used here in Isaiah 9:6, and refers to Jesus as the Almighty or Strong One. I am reminded of John’s vision in the book of Revelation. There, he sees Jesus as One who stands victorious and powerful. A sword proceeds from His mouth to smite the nations (1:16; 19:15), He is the Lion of Judah who alone is able and worthy to open the Book of 7 Seals (5:5), and He is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and strength (5:12).
One of my daughter’s favorite Veggie Tales songs says, “My God is so great, so strong, and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do!” No wonder the angels declared, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) and again, “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). The might, strength, authority, and power of the Lord to fight our battles, defeat our enemies, and sustain us in times of trouble is clear. Jesus is the Mighty God!
EVERLASTING FATHER – The Gift of Security
Whereas Ahaz refused to demonstrate faith in God’s eternal covenant to preserve a remnant, the Christ child was the embodiment of the everlasting covenant – a King on David’s throne and of life eternal for God’s people.
Psalm 90:2 says, “Even from everlasting to everlasting, you are Adonai (our great King and Lord).”
Ray Stedman writes “Surely here is the greatness of God. He is the God of history. He is the God of creation. But beyond all that, he is the God of eternity. He is beyond and above his creation. He is greater than the universe he produced, and before it existed, he was. In fact the Hebrew here is again very interesting. It suggests the translation ‘From the vanishing point in the past to the vanishing point in the future,’ and thus, from everlasting to everlasting God exists. How great he is!”
In sending Jesus, God the Father was firmly establishing the Covenant of Life with His people. He was fulfilling prophecy, which was His word from generations past. We have security in knowing that He will never cease to be, His promises will never fail, and He will preserve His people. We can depend on God and His word. We have strength and comfort in knowing that even if all else in our lives falls apart, God’s love, mercy, and grace never fail.
THE PRINCE OF PEACE – The Gift of Peace
Whereas Ahaz refused to heed the prophet’s word to fear not, the Christ child is the Prince of Shalom – total peace and well-being for God’s people.
The Hebrew word used for “Prince” in Isaiah 9:6 is transliterated “sar,” and means prince, captain, or chief. It is most likely the origin of the Latin and Germanic/Slavic word “czar” – emperor. This word “sar” is also the same word used in Joshua 5:14 when Joshua encounters the Lord as the “Captain of the host of the Lord’s armies” – One who possesses authority.
In Matthew 8:8-9, a Centurion comes and asks Jesus to heal a servant that is sick. Although Jesus offers to go, the Centurion says that He should simply give the command (speak the word). The Centurion recognized Jesus’ authority to speak into a situation and bring about change.
In Mark 4:39-41, Jesus commands the storm to cease by saying, “Peace be still.” The disciples marveled and were fearful that He could speak peace, and the wind and sea obeyed.
In John 14:27, Jesus says that through the Holy Spirit He is leaving us with peace. He says, “My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled.”
The point is that Jesus is not simply One who possesses peace, but also has the authority and ability to command it. He is the Captain of Peace who commands peace, and is telling our hearts and lives to be at peace!
It is so easy to lose the meaning of Christmas. We tend to get lost in the wrong kind of presents – or should I say “presence.” We become so consumed with our own presents that we can easily forget that Christmas is all about the presence of Jesus. If we can focus more on the significance of the presence of Jesus, then we will truly discover what it means to have Christmas all year long!
I pray that you experience guidance, strength, security, and peace through Jesus Christ this holiday season. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season. Merry Christmas!
Be sure to download the Family Devotional Activity and share a time of prayer and reflection with your family this Christmas.