I want to wish you a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
We just finished singing "What Child Is This?" and I think it's an appropriate question to ask. It's an appropriate question because if you've grown up in the Christian tradition you already know the answer to that question. You know why we sing about Jesus. But if this whole Christianity thing is foreign to you, that's a very legitimate question. What's the big deal with a child born in a manger over two thousand years ago? Why all the songs, carols, whistles, and bells?
Did you know that in our day over four million babies are born in the United States each year? The most popular day for babies to make their entrance into this world is Tuesdays—at least according to recent statistics. The next most popular day is Monday. Sunday is the slowest day, with 35.1 fewer births than average. The most "popular" month be born is September. How many of you were born in September? Raise your hand.
When we think about all the new babies and giving birth, it happens so often that we have to ask some fundamental questions: Why is this Child—the Child that we celebrate every Christmas—so special? I mean, four million babies enter the world in the United States in one year, and we're singing about one child born over two thousand years ago, far away in the Middle East. So what's the big deal about this one? Why do people make such a fuss about one baby being born to maybe a fourteen-year-old teenage girl somewhere in the Middle East over two thousand years ago?
Jesus is God with us.
In order to answer those questions I have to take you back about seven hundred years before this birth. So about 2,700 years ago there was a city called Jerusalem. By this time the kingdom that was known as Israel was divided. Also, around this time Jerusalem was under attack by its own brothers and sisters to the north. So about seven hundred years before the birth of this child, Ahaz was king of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Resin was the king of Syria, and Pekah was the king of Israel. What has happened is Resin and Pekah had come together against the Southern Kingdom, and they were about to invade Judah. At this point Ahaz has a choice to make.
Then a prophet named Isaiah enters into the story. God tells Isaiah to go to King Ahaz, king of Jerusalem, king of Judah, and basically tell him, "Don't worry. I have everything under control. Everything is in my sovereign rule. Ask me for a sign, and I'll give it to you." In other words, God says, "Listen. I'll go one further. Not only don't worry, but ask me for anything to show you. So I can show you how sovereign I am and how powerful I am, ask me anything and I'll give it to you." Now Ahaz was weak, and he was an unbeliever and he rejected God's sign. So God became angry with him, and so God says, "That's fine. I'll go ahead and give you a sign." And in Isaiah 7:14 this is the sign that God gives Ahaz: "Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and she'll call his name Immanuel." That's a very interesting promise, because God was promising Ahaz to be with him. And the name Immanuel means "God with us." And God basically tells him here's the sign. The sign is that a child is going to be born, and this child will be God with you, seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ.
What's fascinating is that when God created everything he was with man in the Garden—God and man living together, God with man. But man rebelled against God, and he rejected God's rule over him and God removed him from his presence. He exiled him out of the presence of God. But there was a promise, and the promise was that through a child, through a child of a woman, war would take place and that child would crush the serpent's head. The child would make war with Satan, and he would be victorious. So when we come to the birth of Jesus Christ and we look at the New Testament in Matthew's Gospel chapter one, we read of a promise. Keep in mind this is 700 years after the sign to Ahaz of a child named Immanuel. We read of the description of the birth of Jesus Christ like this:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet. "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel!" (which means, God with us).
I don't know about you, but I find it fascinating that this prediction was given 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ was born Matthew says, "This is it. This is the child. This is the child that will be God with us." The reason we make such a big deal about this child is because the child born in a manger over 2,000 years ago in a place called Bethlehem is God with us. This is the God who desired to be present with his people. The prophecy was given to Ahaz in a very dark time, in a time where the countries were coming around him, and he was afraid that they were going to conquer him and do away with the people of Jerusalem altogether. In that dark time God promised a Son who would be God with them.
And this is who Jesus is. Jesus is God with us. As a matter of fact, John 1:14 says that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." So Jesus is very God of very God and very man of very man, and Jesus is God with us. He is God from heaven come to earth to be with his people.
Jesus is God for us.
But that's not the only reason we make such a big deal about this child. I want you to notice something else. As I keep reading in Isaiah we go through Isaiah 8 and in Isaiah 8 there's an invasion from Syria that is promised that's going to consume the enemies of God's people. But then in chapter 9 we have this promise. It's a great promise that during the time of darkness, that they are experiencing right now, there will come a great light.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them his light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, for the yoke of his burden, and his staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
Let me see if I can paint that picture for you. In Isaiah 7 Ahaz is scared to death because people were coming and invading Judah. He does not believe God, and God gives him a sign that a child will be born and his name is Immanuel. In Isaiah 9, in this time of darkness, God promises them that light will come and that this one who brings light is going to put an end to war, oppression, and darkness. The picture here of "every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood burned as fuel for the fire" implies the idea that the war has ended. This one will come and end war. All the battle implements, all the battle clothing, everything with blood on it will be gathered and it will be burned as fire because war will be no more. That's the promise that God is giving his people in the midst of the threat of invasion from foreign enemies.
Then it explains how all this will come about:
For unto 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.
Again with the child! What child is this? That child born over 2,000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem is not only Immanuel God with us, but the Bible tells us that he is also God for us. Notice the names. This is one who is the light of hope, who comes by way of Galilee. This is where Jesus came from. The light of hope will come in God's gift of a child. In fact, Isaiah 9 tells us that the hope for God's people comes with the mere fact of the child's birth. Just the fact that he is born brings hope to God's people. But I want you to notice the names that this child carries, names of titles, perhaps, if you will.
He is Wonderful Counselor. That word "wonderful" means supernatural. So the child will either be a supernatural counselor or he will be a counselor who offers supernatural counsel. This child who will be king, is one who has wisdom from above and he has counsel that is from above. Unlike Ahaz who was afraid of the nations around him and unlike Ahaz who gave poor counsel and unlike all the other kings in the line of David that led Israel and Jerusalem to the pits and to be ultimately exiled, unlike those kings that have foolish counsel and gave foolish counsel, this king will have divine counsel. He will be all wise and he will be all knowing.
But notice, secondly, he is Mighty God. Mighty comes from the word for "warrior." So this child is God with us, who makes war for us. This is the God who fights on our behalf. This is the child that was promised in Genesis 3:15 that would make war with the serpent. He would make war with the enemy of God. He would make war with Satan himself. And this child that will be born is Mighty God. He is God himself who comes down, and makes war with the enemies of his people. He fights for his people.
That is good news. The greatest battle that we see that this child fought was the battle against the devil when he lived a perfect life of perfect obedience and in obedience he went to the cross. The Bible says that he destroyed the works of the devil by dying on the cross and receiving God's wrath upon himself for our sin, because the Bible tells us that Satan is an accuser of the brethren. He is the one who will stand to accuse everyone for every law that they have transgressed, for everything that they have done wrong. He will gladly stand against all who have broken God's law and say, "He is mine! She is mine! I have her! I have him! They have transgressed your law. They belong to me!" But the Bible says that Jesus went to the cross and he defeated the devil by paying the penalty for sin so that "Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has everlasting life." So that whoever believes in Jesus Christ, on that day when they stand before God as Judge and the devil says accusingly, "I know what he did. I know what she's done," Jesus will reply, "I died for that sin." "There is therefore now no [longer any] condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Jesus says, "Whoever trusts in me, their payment has been paid by my death." This is Mighty God.
But notice also the title Eternal Father. Not that Jesus is our father, not that there's any confusion in the Trinity. But he will act as a father. He will be a king who will rule on behalf of his people with care and compassion. Unlike the kings of Israel's history, unlike the king of Jerusalem's history who were selfish and ruled for selfish gain, this king will rule his people with compassion, care, kindness, and mercy. This is the kind of king that people long for. He will deal with his people in a fatherly way.
And then finally, he is the Prince of Peace. He is the Prince who brings peace.
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will no end.
This is a king who comes and rules and his government will continue forever and ever and ever. This is the king who comes. And it says:
[he will sit] on the throne of David and over [David's] 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 accomplish this.
Jesus is the one who can save us.
So this is who this child is. This child born over 2,000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem is God with us, and he is God for us. This is the child who grew to live a life of perfect obedience and then pay the penalty for sin to save his people from their sin. This is the child who is God himself and man.
Where do you find yourself today? Are you a follower of Christ who finds yourself in darkness because of Adam's sin? What I mean by that is that when Adam sinned he introduced chaos, disorder, and disease into this world. There is suffering and darkness that we experience because of Adam's sin, because Adam's sin brings forth death. During this Christmas maybe that's what you have experienced. Or maybe you have received a diagnosis and you know that it is imminent death in your life and there's darkness over your life. There's a darkness over your family because you're facing death, disease, or some other kind of darkness, not as a result of anything that you've done or as a result of anything someone's done to you, but simply as a result that you're a human being and that you have inherited Adam's sin, guilt, and corruption. The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus is God with us and God for us. If you look and hope in Christ, and you believe the words of Jesus who said, "He who believes in me even though he dies yet shall he live," you will be saved.
Maybe you are here and you're a follower of Christ in darkness because of the sins of others. Maybe someone has sinned against you. Someone has done something to you and you're experiencing a time of darkness because someone has cheated you out of something. Maybe someone has cheated you in business, relationships, marriage, or life. Somewhere, somehow someone has done something to you. Maybe they've done something to your family and there's a cloud of darkness over your life, over your family. The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus is God with us and God for us. He is the light that comes to dispel the darkness. You can put your hope and trust in him regardless of the situation that you're in tonight.
Maybe you're here and you are a follower of Christ in darkness because of your own sin. You have done certain things. You have made certain choices and as a result of those choices there's a cloud of darkness over your life, this season, or over your family. The Good News of the gospel is that because Jesus is God with us and God for us, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin on our behalf and that we can look to him and we can find forgiveness. The Bible promises that "if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." You see, the bottom line is this—Jesus is God with us and God for us, so that whatever darkness you're experiencing he is the light that dispels the darkness.
There's another group of people in here, those who are not followers of Christ. They're ones like Ahaz who rejected what God was saying. They reject God's child and they reject God's King. To you I would say this: you can look in hope to Christ that he would be God with you and God for you, that he would bring you out of the darkness of this world and the darkness of the sin that is around you. You can look to hope in Jesus Christ. But be warned that those who reject the King, those who reject this child, will receive God's wrath for all eternity.
The reason we make such a big deal about this child is because this child is the promised one who is God with us and God for us. He has come to save his people from their sins, and he is the only hope that we have. Let me read once again from Matthew 1:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, begin a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet."Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, And they shall call his name Immanuel!" (which means, God with us).
That's who this Child is.
Juan Sanchez is the Preaching Pastor for High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.