Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. People seem nicer, with the two exceptions being Black Friday and checkout lines. Christmas music with words about Jesus gets played in stores other than Chick-fil-A.
And who doesn’t love pictures with Santa?
How do you feel about Christmas? Our theme for our Christmas series is “Coming Home for Christmas.” Depending on your experiences growing up, that may or may not give you the warm fuzzies.
But this series is not about returning home to Wichita or Wisconsin. It’s about the story behind the story. It’s about coming home to the One who created you, loves you, and wants to be in a relationship with you.
One of the best-known Christmas passages in the Bible doesn’t appear in the Gospels but in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Isaiah is an interesting character in the Bible. He’s known as one of the Major Prophets. He will be quoted in the New Testament over 65 times.
Isaiah is best known for predicting the coming of the Messiah – Jesus. However, that doesn’t mean everything is hunky dory in his own day and age. It wasn’t.
As a prophet, Isaiah had worked with godly rulers and ungodly rulers. In that sense, not much has changed. During the time we’re going to study, Isaiah is working with one of Israel’s most wicked kings – Ahaz.
Ahaz built temples for idols. He engaged in human sacrifice – offering his own sons in pagan worship. Basically, he had completely turned away from God. Yet in this darkest of moments comes one of the most important predictions about Jesus:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. — Isaiah 9:2-5
Knowing what kind of king Ahaz was, this passage seems a bit strange. Is Isaiah in denial? Not at all.
Ahaz was a bad man and Isaiah knew that Israel was in trouble. He knew that in life’s darkest moments, many people struggle to find their way.
Isaiah knew that the noise around us can drown out of the voice of God.
Which still leaves us wondering, how can Isaiah be so confident that things will turn around?
He knows what’s coming:
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. — Isaiah 9:6-7
The first title Isaiah gives to Jesus is this: Wonderful Counselor.
Wonderful Counselor combines two ideas: doing something “extraordinary or even miraculous” with the skill of “giving wise advice.” In other words, Jesus is able to discern the truth in all situations and determine the appropriate way to proceed.
Although Jesus’ first disciples followed him for three years, they still had a hard time understanding he would be crucified, raised to life, and would return a second time.
On one occasion, he describes heaven and promises to return for them. He even says, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Then Thomas speaks up: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered this way: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” — John 14:6-7
When we can’t find our way, Jesus reminds us – I am the way.
When all we hear are lies, Jesus reminds us – I am the truth.
When we are tempted to limit life to our five senses, Jesus says – I am the life.
Through the gift of Jesus, God offers us the opportunity to be led by a Wonderful Counselor – by one who sees things more clearly and is willing to lead us from on high.
And if Jesus is truly the Wonderful Counselor, then being led by him will never be dull and boring.