December 2017

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

As you read this verse I am guessing that you are humming Handel's famous words from his Chorus in part one of the Messiah. Charles Jennens, a deeply devout Christian, assembled most of the scripture from the King James Bible and gave Handel the lyrics to the Messiah – verses primarily from Isaiah, Psalms, Paul's letters and Revelation.

Most of us seem to pull this passage out of the box only at Christmas, often you see it on Christmas cards and I have seen it on Christmas decorations as well. I want to give a bit of thought to the rich truth this single verse teaches concerning Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Yes, we still await (we think of this during advent) Jesus to come again in power and glory, as he promised (the Second Coming).

In Christ's First Coming almost 2000 years ago, God took on mere human flesh and became human at Christmas. It is interesting to note that Charles Jennens rejected claims that God did not intervene in human history; claims held by those who are called Deists. The verses Jennens selected for Handel's Messiah show God's interest and involvement in human affairs. For him the Bible clearly showed God's involvement not only in history and in the present but also in the future as seen in Bible prophecy.

It is remarkable that Isaiah wrote this prophecy at least 600 years before the birth of the Jesus. As he looked at the failed kings in his own country, Israel, and seeing the troubled monarchy, Isaiah foresaw centuries ahead to a time when God would rule on earth through His Son.

"For unto us a Child is born" – the emphasis is on Jesus Christ's humanity. He had to come as a human being, in the form of a child, so He could endure the temptations humanity face, yet be without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

"Unto us a Son is given" implies Jesus' deity. This person that will take on humanity existed before His birth. The apostle Paul referring to this later said, "Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of humanity" (Philippians 2:6-7). He came as the Son of God – God in human flesh– to conquer sin and death forever.

"And the government shall be upon His shoulder" affirms Jesus' lordship. This verse looks to a time still in the future when Christ will reign over a literal, earthly, geopolitical kingdom that encompasses all the kingdoms and governments of the world. In addition to the prophet Isaiah, Daniel and Zechariah spoke of this (Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 14:9).

But until that time, His kingdom is in an invisible form (Luke 17:20-21). At present Christ's rule is over those who trust Him and obey Him as Lord. It's currently an invisible kingdom, but will one day become visible and universal as His rule extends even over those who do not acknowledge His lordship in their hearts.

So, what sort of kingdom is it? What distinguishes Christ's kingdom from the other kingdoms of this world? The names Isaiah used for Christ hint at qualities that will make Jesus's kingdom different from any other earthly government. I will comment on two of them. At a time when the world is weary, if not in turmoil (just switch the news channels on) and despairing of political solutions, when the political future looks bleak, we can look forward and await something better.

The verse calls Christ "Wonderful, Counsellor". He is an exceptional leader who is truly interested in serving His people. There have been exceptional political leaders who possessed highly commendable qualities whether in public speaking, commanding public following, being charismatic, displaying tremendous wisdom, showing compassion, dealing with public with integrity and showing an acute sense of justice. However, when you compare the even the greatest ever leader to have lived with Jesus Christ, you'll find there's no comparison at all. During His time on earth, Christ demonstrated His wisdom as a counsellor. Jesus always knew what to say, when to reach out to a seeking heart, and when even to correct an erring soul. Even his enemies said, "Never did a man speak the way this man speaks" (John 7:46). He was true and authentic even Pilate could find anything to convict him of and declared him innocent. No politician can match that! He is the ultimate and only true answer to political confusion.

Second, Christ is "Mighty God". Even the most powerful political power on earth cannot bring about solutions to the crises we are facing. They just have not got enough power or the political will. There are plentiful precarious situations in the world. Have we resolved the problems facing Syria or Iraq? However, Christ is the one who in creation brought order out of chaos. Even with us misusing creation, it is remarkably stable. He brings order to the troubled lives of all who turn to Him. Just think of the current debates on North Korea, Brexit, sexual harassment, political prisoners in Iran, funding the NHS and fighting terror. Legislation can go only so far. When Christ returns we will have lasting solutions through his mighty power which will change nature and the natural order as we know it. The Apostle John saw a vision of the future which is captured in Revelation 21: "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." Not only will there be a change in nature, He is mighty to forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate people from the power of evil, redeem them, answer their prayers, restore their broken souls, and reign as Lord –"Mighty God" – over their newly ordered lives. That's a politician this world has never seen.

As we celebrate Christmas let us rejoice in the fact God got involved in our messy world (incarnation) and He does have a solution for it. I hope you'll get to experience Handel's Messiah not just in the concert hall but in life as well.

I will end with this quote: "Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him. . . . I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man; none else is like Him: Jesus Christ was more than a man…" Napoleon Bonaparte

Have a Blessed Christmas and I hope it is going to be great New Year!