Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1331
Dr. Ed Pettus December 24, 2017 Isaiah 9.2-7
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
"To Us a Son Is Given"
The Gift of Christmas
Tomorrow we celebrate a great gift. God gave the gift. We celebrate the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. We know the gift from many places in Scripture, but particularly John 3.16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Isaiah gives us the same message of gift, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”. This is a very giving God. There is yet another mention of this gift earlier in Isaiah 7.14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The gift is a Son, the gift is a sign, the gift is God with us, Immanuel.
The gift is also in the day. Christmas day itself is a gift to us for all the reasons we see in just a few verses from John and Isaiah. But the day is set aside to celebrate the One given and everything that comes with the gift of Jesus. If we just took the passage from Isaiah 9 alone we would find other gifts given in and through Jesus. Verse 2 presents us with a great light. Verse 3 gives us joy. In verses 4-5 we are set free. In the person of Christ we are given the future head of the government and He will be our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Gift after gift after gift. As we exchange gifts either tonight or tomorrow morning, remember the gift given in the day, in the Son, and in all that makes this Christmas meaningful for us.
Let’s look more closely at the gifts of Christmas.
From Darkness to Light
v. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
The gift is light. Walking in darkness can be a frightening activity. If we are walking in the darkness of our own home it is not much more than the fear of bumping into something. If we are walking in the darkness of an ally, we have a whole new set of fears. Then there is the darkness of sin, the darkness of fear itself, or the darkness of the unknown. There are all kinds of ways we might define our darkness. The good news of Christmas is that we have seen a great light that pierces all our darknesses! For Israel the darkness was once bondage in Egypt. At another time, the time of Isaiah, it was exile. The Jews have since then seen many a dark period. All their darkness have been addressed by the Son of God. Many Jews came to believe and many have come to believe to this day, but many have also continued to reject Jesus Christ and therefore, they still walk in darkness.
Gentiles were completely in the dark prior to the coming of Jesus. But now we too have seen a great light. John 1 shines the light for us,
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
The light is life, the light is the light to everyone, the light leads us to become the children of God. Verse 13 reminds us that it is nothing that we have done, but it is solely by the will of God. Paul affirms this as well in Colossians 1.13-14, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God has brought us from darkness to light. In the light is redemption and forgiveness. It is the light that lights our path and illuminates our lives with wisdom and insight. It can only be found in Jesus Christ and in His word, the Bible. The Scriptures call us to walk in the light.
1 John 1:5-7, 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Let us receive the gift of light this Christmas.
Joy, Joy, Joy
v. 3 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
The next gift is joy. There is a lot of joy in verse 3, “You have increased its joy, they rejoice, with joy, they are glad.” It is God who has given the joy. Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Joy is much deeper than happiness. Happiness is fleeting, temporary. But joy is deeper, more meaningful, a gift from the Lord. This is the joy that was given at Christmas.
Luke 2.9-11, 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The angel told them not to fear because of the good news of great joy. Imagine times when you have had fear and something was told you that eliminated that fear. I think about times when people are told they have something wrong medically and then the fear sets in. After tests and procedures they discover good news that it is a minor problem that can be treated.
We have reasons to fear everyday, but what keeps us from succumbing to that fear is this good news of great joy. Whether our fears are financial, emotional, national or world news, spiritual, medical, no matter what fears we have, God has given us the good news of joy that resides deep in the soul. This is the good news of the gift God has given.
1 John 4.18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
The perfect love is God’s love that has been shown to us in the birth of His Son. Love casts out fear and replaced fear with joy.
Let us receive the gift of joy this Christmas.
4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
When we look to the 2 verses 4-5, there is a revelation about freedom. The terms used in verse 4 speak of devices used to oppress: yoke, staff, and rod. These are the tools that are used to imprison, to oppress, and enslave. In Isaiah’s day it may have been referring to instrument of exile. In our context of Christmas, it may be speaking about how Jesus Christ has set us free from all that seeks to oppress us. Theologically we talk about Satan or death or our own sin as forces of oppression.
Galatians teaches us more about freedom.
Gal. 4.8-9, 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
Gal. 5.1, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
When we did not know God, we were enslaved. But Christ has set us free. There are lots of ways we might be enslaved, even when we know God or are known by God. This is why we find ourselves confessing sin on a daily basis! Part of what we seek in Christ is to grow in faith and in knowledge of His word so that we might not sin against God because that sin is a yoke of slavery.
Christmas is a time to recognize the gift of freedom in Jesus.
Let us receive the gift of freedom this Christmas.
To Us a Son Is Given
6 For to 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. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
All that we have seen today in Isaiah 9, the light, the joy, the freedom is given in the Son. A child is born, a Son is given and He will take on all government, He will usher in a new kingdom. It will be built upon justice and righteousness and it will never end. This is what Jesus proclaimed from the very first day of His earthly ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4.17). In the coming of Christ, all the instruments of slavery were destroyed and all the power of His kingdom came to bear on the world.
Jesus is given four titles, wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Wonderful Counselor: This is God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, John 14:16f, 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, (RSV)
Mighty God: When Mary sings her song in the Christmas story, she speaks of the mighty God, Luke 1.46-49, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Everlasting Father: Jesus will reign forever more. This one might even point us to Christ’s second advent. Revelation 11.15, 15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
Prince of Peace: The Christmas story also includes the peace that Christ brings to the world. The angels sang of it in to the shepherds, Luke 2.14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Let us receive the gift of the Son and all that comes with Him this Christmas.
The Zeal of the Lord
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
And it is the Lord who has given it all, out of His zeal. Zeal is not a word we commonly use. I understand the zeal of the Lord in this context as His enthusiasm, energy, love, eagerness, jealousy, all rolled into a passionate desire to bring us the light of Jesus Christ. In one way the zeal of the Lord takes us back to John 3.16, for God so loved the world...the zeal is in the action taken...He gave his only Son. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, how God has expressed His zeal! The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this...that is, send His Son into the world to save us from all that would seek to destroy us. And it has all been done through the love, compassion, and enthusiasm of God. That is what is wrapped up in the swaddling clothes lying in a manger.
Receive the gifts of God and let us give thanks to the Lord this Christmas.