Archive for the ‘Isaiah 9:2-7’ Category

“The King Is Born!”

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

CHRISTMAS EVE-The Nativity of our Lord, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

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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.” [Isaiah 9:5, 6]

We all have experienced the waiting and anticipation of the birth of a baby in the family. And even though we live in a country that doesn’t have a king, we know from our friends in England how they followed (and maybe we did, too!) the royal births of William and Harry.

But the British monarchy isn’t the same kind of kingdom as in the ancient world of Israel, where the king and his dynasty were everything – and actually affected the lives of even the lowest of subjects he ruled. But since the British monarchy is the closest thing we have to understand life under a king, we might want to think of Henry VIII and his obsession with having a male heir. Not only was the king himself the sole (and predominantly selfish) center and essence of the kingdom, around which everything revolved, but he also had to secure the future of the dynasty with a son.

So any royal pregnancy was closely watched. And can you hear the well-known words of our text as a royal birth announcement for a people who were under siege by the nations around them, who wondered if their kingdom would remain, who pinned their hopes and their futures on the birth of a prince and the succession of the kingdom?

“Unto us a child is born!” Ok, fine, but is it a boy? Yes! “Unto us a son is given!”  And the ruling power will continue—on his shoulder!  And yes, he will have royal names that proclaim his importance and power!  And the kingdom will endure—“Of the increase of his rule 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!”

But then comes a striking reminder, less so for the folks back then, who should have known that their king and their kingdom was not like any other. Remember that this was not a kingdom like the nations; this was the kingdom of God. And so this announcement concludes: “The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will do this!”

So what does this have to do with us, dear friends in Christ, this Christmas, this year, in our world and our culture that was founded on the principle of removing the king and establishing a society “of the people, by the people, and for the people?” We know the dangers of a monarchy where everything revolves around the king. I mean, we as Americans know how easily the “government can lie solely on (some ruler’s) shoulders,” with little concern for anybody else, for all the men and woman and children who want to work and play and be free.

Sometimes we want to think that the “zeal of Yahweh of Hosts” will do whatever we think is best for us, and even for our nation, because, well, aren’t we the people of God? In fact, that is less a temptation in recent years, as our nation and society drift further away from even some sense of living in the ways in God has established his created order. But there is always the temptation to think that “God is on our side” as a nation, or even individually, to provide for us the life that we want.

But the kingdom of God, as our king would put it, is “in the world, but not of the world.” Like ancient Israel, we remember that we are involved with something unique, grounded in our relationship with God. And on a holiday when even much of the world around us at least recognizes something of who we are as “Christmas” people, that is, “Christ centered people” or “People of God in Christ,” we celebrate today what it means for us, in the “kingdom of God,” to hear the news that a “king is born.”

We have been talking about this king for the last four weeks, as Advent has prepared us for this day. We have waited with the hopes of a mother who is “expecting”—and with her the future of the kingdom. And today we hear the birth announcement: “A child—a son—is born.”

In reality, this birth should mean even more for us than a royal birth meant for a kingdom. First, it means that the kingdom is secured. It may not look that way, as we wonder about all the forces around us that work against what we confess as Christians. But remember; this is not just another kingdom; this is the kingdom of God. The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will do this, has done this. In fact, it is God himself who has come as our King.

That is why this kingdom, the increase of His rule, and of peace will have no end! That is why His justice and righteousness will be established from now and forevermore! That is why we can celebrate this day as something that is far greater than just another holiday, even a “national holiday,” for this kingdom is the kingdom of God, not just here, but everywhere, not like the nations, but for all nations!

Next, the King is, indeed, the true essence of the kingdom. Everything does revolve around Him. But here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the King has come to serve, not to be served. Here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the King has come, not for His sake, but for you. Here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the king has come because He cares for each and every man, woman, and child (born and unborn), both those in His kingdom and those who have yet to come into it. Here’s the difference in the kingdom of God: the King has come to give His life as a ransom, to “buy you back” from the kingdoms and the powers that want to control you, whether they be your own internal temptations, your personal sin, or simply that natural temptation to think the world—and God—exist for you, and your wants.

In fact, the King has come because of your needs: your need to be loved, your need to be saved; your need to be rescued, your need to be forgiven and given a future and a hope and peace that will, like the kingdom, have no end.

This is the King who would come to save his people. He will be called Jesus, remember, because He will “save” his people from their sins. And I declare to you this day—this holiday that is really a holy-day—that Christ has come for you. Christ has died for you. Christ is risen for you. Christ will come again, for you.

Finally, what did they name the baby? This Sunday we will talk about His proper name Jesus, how He comes to save us from our sins. But our text this evening gives us four royal names, typical of ancient kings. We don’t have time to unpack them all, but each one gives us a reminder of why this day, and this King, are so special, so different, so “one of a kind.”

In short, each pair has a name that could describe just another earthly king: counselor—every king was to be known by his wisdom and good counsel; mighty—every king was to be a good warrior; father—why we even call George Washington the “father of our nation”; and prince—yes, kings were princes when they were born.  But to each ordinary name is given a most extraordinary twist: a counselor who does “wonders”—not just great insight, like the proverbial wisdom of Solomon—but someone truly extraordinary, even with the power of God!

Not just a warrior, a war hero rightly honored for his valor, but one Who fights with the might of God himself, who conquers all foes, human, superhuman, and the principalities and powers of spiritual darkness.

A father, indeed, to whom we can pray, “Our Father in heaven,” for he is a father who is ours forever.  And yes, a prince, the prince who brings a true and lasting peace, not like the world seeks and never finds, but a peace that comes only from knowing the King of the kingdom of God.

Dear people of God, a King is born. Not just a sweet baby in a manger; a King who will reign forever. He came humbly. He came holy. He came for you.

He came as the counselor of wonders. He came as the mighty God. He came as the everlasting Father. He came as the prince of peace. He came for you.

We pray, as He came and taught us, this day and day after day, “Thy Kingdom Come.” Luther reminds us that the kingdom will come, whether we pray for it or not, but we do pray that it may come among us.

This evening the Good News I proclaim to you along with angels is that the King has come. His kingdom is among us. We are his forever. Christ, a Savior is born! Christ, the king, is born!  Merry Christmas!