Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent 2008: Christmas Eve Candlelighting Message

“To Us a Child Is Born”
Christmas Eve Candlelighting
December 24, 2008
Isaiah 9:6-7

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we have been celebrating the arrival of the Messiah foretold 800 years before His birth, in Isaiah chapter 9, verses 6 and 7.

This is one of those famous passages of Scripture that gets into your head and cycles around every Christmastime.

George Frideric Handel thought these words were exceedingly beautiful and incorporated them into one of the most famous pieces of music in all of Western Civilization: Handel’s Messiah.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it in my head this whole Advent Season, especially as each family has done their Advent Reading.

Isaiah 9:6-7 is a prophecy of the Messiah of Israel–the promised ruler who would make all things right once more.

Verses 1 through 5 of Isaiah 9 talk of people walking in darkness who have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

We’re at the darkest time of the year right now. Each day is short, each night is long.

These people were walking, living in darkness. But a light had now dawned.

And that light is the joyful reversal of the curse on the world and the end of all war!

And that light comes in the form of a child. Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6 and 7.

“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. Of the increase 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.”

This is what Christmas is all about.

Isaiah wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about 800 years before the first Christmas. Before the birth of Jesus Christ.

He didn’t know Jesus’ name. But He could see the day when Jesus would come.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...”

God was promising to send a Messianic Ruler, born as a little human baby–born full of hope and promise.

And this little child would be a gift. A gift, Isaiah says, “to us.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given...”

Now, originally that “us” was Israel. But John tells us that God so loved “the world” that He gave His One and Only Son to the world.

So this child was born to all of us. And He changes all of our lives.

Verse 6 says that He would have several great names.

These names are titles that would be appropriate for this coming child.

It’s not that they would be the name that His mother would give him.

She didn’t yell out the kitchen window, “Hey, Wonderful Counselor Mighty God Everlasting Father Prince of Peace, come in for dinner!”

No, these four titles would accurately express who this child would become and what He would accomplish when He began His righteous rule.

During this Advent Season we have been meditating on each one.

[Light First Candle]

Bob & Eleanor Lutz lit our first candle to signify that the Child born to us would be a WONDERFUL COUNSELOR.

Now, when we use the word “counselor,” we tend to think of a dapper fellow in a cardigan sweater who carefully listens to our personal problems and then helps us to solve them with his soothing voice dispensing advice.

But the kind of counselors we know weren’t around in the 8th century before Christ.

The kind of counselors everyone listened to then were what we would call “Military Advisors” or “Military Strategists.”

These were men who understood the enemy and understood battle tactics.

They were rough and tumble men who had what it takes to give you a plan to win a war.

Isaiah says that the Messiah would be a “Wonderful Counselor.”

His plans, His strategies, His advice, His counsel would be like nothing ever seen before!

It would be “wonderful!” Full of wonders.

And therefore, anyone who took His counsel would not fail.

The apostle Paul said that all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus Christ.

He is the child born to us and He is full of wonderful counsel.

His advice is like no other:

You have give up your life to save it.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
You can’t earn your salvation, you must receive it.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Those kind of statements aren’t natural wisdom!

But they are wonderful!

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. And those who follow His strategies never fail.

I think the application of this title for us this Christmas is to marvel at Jesus’ wisdom and to seek it out.

Are you seeking the wisdom of Christ?

Or are you trying to do things your own way? Or the world’s way?

Often, Jesus’ wisdom seems foolish to us.

People come to me with problems, and I try to give them Jesus’ wisdom–often it sounds like craziness to them and they don’t give it more than a half-hearted try.

Counseling can be a pretty frustrating thing.

But Jesus’ wisdom is wonderful! It’s full of wonder!

And when we do things His way, the world may scratch their heads, but in the end, we will all marvel at the result!

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.

[Light Candle #2]

Andy and Bonnie Dobash lit our second candle to symbolize that the Child born to us would be the MIGHTY GOD. V.6

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God...”

This child to be born would appropriately[!] bear the title “Mighty God.”

Now, I wonder what Isaiah must have thought when the Spirit led Him to put those words down on paper!

A baby was going to be born, a son, and He would be called “What?” Lord, you want me to write what?

“Mighty God!”

That’s unbelievable! There are truly no real words to describe this!

Mighty God has become a baby boy!

A baby boy is Mighty God!

That’s mind-blowing stuff.

We’re too used to it because we sing the Christmas Carols every year.

And we’ve gotten used to Christmas pageants and Christmas Cards.

But this mind-blowing stuff. Our brains should be cooking just thinking about it!

Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, and He was and is Mighty God!

The application of that title is simply to worship Him!

To worship Jesus in His power and His glory.

Every day, to get down on our knees and worship Him.

To center our lives around Jesus.

To make Jesus the focus of our faith.

A lot of people seem to believe in God. But the Bible says that that is not good enough.

It’s not enough to “believe in God!”

We must worship Jesus, the God-Man.

He is glorious and all-powerful deity. Deserving all of our praise and worship.

Veiled in Flesh the Godhead See
Hail (Worship!) The Incarnate Deity
Pleased As Man With Men to Dwell
Jesus, Our Immanuel!

Jesus is Mighty God!

[Light Candle #3]

The Hurley family lit our third candle. And they told us that the Child born to us would be called “EVERLASTING FATHER.”

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father...”

Now, Jesus is not God the Father. This is not a reference to His oneness with God the Father.

And humanly speaking, Jesus never married or had any children as a human father.

But that’s not the kind of Father that this is talking about.

This is more like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or John Adams.

People we call the “Fathers of our nation.”

They were the foundational leaders of our nation who led and guided it.

And the Messiah was to be a Father to His people.

Now, not everyone has had a great father.

But that word “Father” is supposed to conjure up connotations of care and wisdom and authority and strong leadership.

This is the ideal Father that everyone longs for and all good earthly fathers aspire to be like: loving, sacrificial, and strong.

Verse 6 said that the “government will be on his shoulders.”

He would shoulder the government! That’s a big responsibility, calling for very big shoulders.

As a Dad, I understand what it means to have the weight of a family rest on your shoulders.

Well, the weight of the world would rest on the shoulders of this child!

That’s what it would mean for Him to be “Father” for His people.

But He wouldn’t just be Father. He’s be Everlasting Father!

This does point to His deity!

His Fatherhood, His loving leadership would be a never-ending-never-stopping-always-coming-through kind of leadership!

Where earthly fathers (all of them, all of us) will fail, this One never will!

The application of this title is simply to trust and to obey Jesus.

“To follow the Father” and to trust and obey Jesus as our loving leader.

He is so wise! Wonderfully wise!
And His so powerful! Mighty God!
And He is such a loving leader! Everlasting Father.

We can trust Him. And we can do what He says.

Are you going through a hard time right now?

Jesus is a Father. Like a Shepherd, you can trust Him, and you can do what He says, and He will take care of you.

To us a child is born, and He is an Everlasting Father. Trust Him and obey Him.

[Light Candle #4]

On Sunday, Terry and Nancy Sheetz lit our fourth candle and proclaimed his fourth title here: PRINCE OF PEACE.

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Messiah’s rule will be characterized, not just by the absence of war (though that will be amazing!) but by the presence of harmony, justice, righteousness, and peace.

Shalom. And Shalom forever! Listen to verse 7.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. [It will just get better and better and better!] 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.”

This peace has come, but it has not come fully yet.

The Kingdom has been inaugurated but has not been fully consummated.

When Jesus was born, the angels sang, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.”

Because the Son had come!

And when He comes again, He will establish this Kingdom that will never end.

So, I think the application here is to rejoice in Jesus’ peace and long for Him to bring the kingdom of peace forever.

Jesus has brought peace with God.

If we trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, banking on what He did for us on the Cross, we have peace with God!

And we can begin to have peace on Earth, as well. As we embrace His principles for peacemaking.

But one day, coming soon, the whole world will be filled with peace.

Justice and righteousness will flow like mighty waters.

And of the increase of his government (resting on His almighty shoulders) and His peace–there will be no end.

While we work at that now, we long for that day!

Verse 5 paints a picture of that day when “every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.”

If the boots and the uniforms are being tossed into the fire, where do you think the weapons are?

There will be no more war!

There will only be peace!

Because of the Prince of Peace!

Do you long for that day?

Is it in your blood? Is it in your heart to long for the return of the Prince of Peace–for that Kingdom to be established and to grow without end?

How will this happen?

How can we know that this kingdom will, in fact, come?

Sometimes it seems like it never will!

And we could never do it.

[Light the Christ Candle]

Our fifth and last candle is a Candle of the LORD’S ZEAL. Isaiah 9:7

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”

Friends, we can count on it!

God is jealous to see His glory manifested in the New Creation!

He has committed Himself to this, and He will not fail to bring it about!

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty WILL accomplish this.”

We can count on that!

God is passionate about it. He is zealous. It will not fail to occur.

And all because a child has been born–to us.

Given to us.

All we have to do is to receive Him.

Have you received this Child?

Have you received the gift of His life?

To you a child has been born. To you a Son has been given.

And He will be called:

Wonderful Counselor. Marvel at Jesus’ Wisdom and Seek It Out.

Mighty God. Worship Jesus for His Power and His Glory!

Everlasting Father. Trust and Obey Jesus’ Loving Leadership.

Prince of Peace. Rejoice in Jesus’ Peace and Long for Him to Bring the Kingdom of Peace Forever.

How do we know it will happen?

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”