First Mennonite Church
December 20, 2015
What Child Is This?
Text: John 1:1-18; Isaiah 9:6, 7
Today, I want us to reflect on John 1, verses 1-18 and two verses in Isaiah, chapter 9, verses 6 and 7. Today is our Christmas worship service. Christmas means the Christ Festival or the celebration of the Christ, in which case, it should not be limited to December. Nonetheless, it is in December when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
When Matthew and Luke wrote the birth story of Jesus, they could not help but see references to Isaiah’s prophecy of a child. Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of the Child of hope came at a time of great political turmoil and spiritual confusion in Israel and Judah. Isaiah’s prophecy about the birth of the Child of hope came when Ahaz was king of Judah. Ahaz was a terrible king, yet he thought he could take care of all the troubles without God’s help or guidance. After Ahaz died, Hezekiah became king. And he was a good king for most of his reign. And this is why many Jews, even today, believe that the prophecy of the Immanuel, that Child of hope and restoration, spoken of by Isaiah was actually fulfilled in the person of king Hezekiah.
What is interesting about the gospels is that Mark and John do not have a birth story for Jesus. John did not need to give any genealogical proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah. That is because John wanted to give witness to the nature, purpose, and gift of God as he had discovered in the person of Jesus. For John, whatever happened during the birth of Jesus was not a determining factor in order to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. That is why John begins by exalting the nature of Christ Jesus. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… [God . . . .] And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
How do so many people get lost and tangled in the busyness of Christmas shopping, gift giving, cooking and eating? How it is that so many are satisfied with pondering on the innocence and defenselessness of a baby, as if that is all there is to the living Christ? For many, Christmas will only consist in the joy of receiving a gift. For many, Christmas will not go beyond a good time of family get together.
John wants us to celebrate the Christ by actually discovering him for who he really is. Christ is the Wonderful Counselor. John says, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” We need to discover and follow this Wonderful Counselor. Every day we have decisions to make. We all need direction for our everyday decisions, big or small. But the most important question we all need to answer is: Do I want to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior? Just as Pilate had to make a decision, we all have to make a decision regarding what to do with Jesus. In Matthew 27:22 Pilate asked: “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
Today, Jesus pleads with each of us to allow him to be our Wonderful Counselor. We all need Jesus, that Wonderful Counselor. We need the true light to enlighten us. How richer and more meaningful our lives would be if we only would come to him to find daily counsel!
John witnesses that the Word not only created the light in the beginning when God said, “let there be light,” but he is the true light. No darkness can hide or destroy the true light. And he has come to deliver us from darkness into his glorious light. Jesus has come to redeem us from the darkness of sin and death. He wants to give us light so that we may not stumble in our personal life, married life, professional life and so on. Literally, during Christmas time is when we consume more electricity for light, but God’s gift of light is free to all who believe in his Son, Jesus Christ.
John discovered that Jesus is the creative word of God. He is the Creator God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. He is the Mighty God, says Isaiah. Despite the majesty of God and the glory that surrounds him, he came through his Son in human form. Although Christ is the Lion of Judah, he is also the Lamb that was slain. Although he is King, he calls us his brothers and sisters. Although God is from eternity to eternity, he humbly came to share our time and space in the world. This Almighty God is our God.
John also gave witness of Jesus not only as creator of the world, but also as absolute Lord of everything. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. Further down in his gospel, John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
The prophet Isaiah said, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders.”
Dear friends, when Isaiah envisioned the authority or rule resting on in the shoulders of the Child of hope, he could not foresee all the implications of this prophecy. Upon the shoulders of Christ first weighed the cross on his way to Golgotha. On his shoulder weighed the sins of the world and the punishment for our sins and our rebellion against God. And because he faithfully carried that weight on his shoulders, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11).
To the Child of hope God gave full authority for he is Lord of lords and King of all kings. His reign is from eternity to eternity. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for… his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
John walked alongside Jesus for three and half years. He witnessed how the people rejected Jesus. And so he wrote: He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
Isaiah said the Child of hope is also called “Everlasting Father.” Everyone who believes in Jesus was given the power to become God’s children. God’s love as our Father is remarkably different than the love we fathers have for our children. We, who are fathers, love our children. We would do anything and everything that will help them in life. But even when we love our children so much, we know that someday we will be gone and our children will be without a father. God’s love as a Father will never end. He has loved us, loves us today and will love us throughout eternity. God is our Everlasting Father.
For those whose father abandoned them or hurt them when they were young, let me tell you that God as our Father will never abandon us nor forsake us. He will never withhold his love for us even when we fail. God is our Everlasting Father when we believe in his Son. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. He will cause you to have peace with God and will give peace within. He will empower you to become his agent of peace. Jesus is our peace, says the apostle Paul in Ephesian 2:14. Isaiah says that Christ is the Prince of peace.
This Christmas, let us strive to know who Christ is. Let us experience his power, his love, and his salvation. Christ was born that we may not die, says the Christmas hymn. He came that we may have a second birth. Receive Jesus in your heart and you will become a child of God the Everlasting Father. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Amen!