1st Mid-Week Advent Service Sermon Text: Isaiah 9:6
Let us pray: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
When you peer into a manger scene, you will find figurines of shepherds, Mary, Joseph, animals, and the Babe. Except possibly for an angel, the scene depicted is quite the humble and lowly setting. Yet despite all appearances, that Child is the Son of God. Despite all appearances, He won your salvation on the cross. Far beyond what you see in that humble, earthly manger scene, He is present, performing miraculous wonders, forgiving your sins and strengthening your faith. This is because He is the Savior called Wonderful.
His name shall be called “Wonderful,” declares the prophet Isaiah. “Wonderful” is a term that is often tossed about to mean something that is pleasing and enjoyable. But there is a far greater meaning, a two-fold meaning which Isaiah has in mind. First, a wonder is, by definition, a miracle. If something is full of wonder, it is beyond human ability; it is something supernatural, miraculous. If something is wonderful, that something is beyond what we are able to do. Therefore, the Lord is Wonderful because He, the Son of God, accomplishes miracles only He can do. Second, if something is full of wonder, it is beyond human reasoning. Something full of wonder may well be so godly, so wonderful that human ability cannot sense it or see it, but can only trust that it is true. If something is wonderful, that something is beyond what we are able to sense or see, but only trust. The Lord is Wonderful because of who He is – the Son of God.
Behold the wonder the prophet Isaiah proclaims, for it rings out to you with the words: and the government shall be upon his shoulder. With this phrase, Isaiah declares that our Savior will be a King unlike any other. You see, a king rules by keeping all things under his feet. He holds the authority and then directs others to do the labor. He commands his treasurer to make the payments required. He commands his citizens to keep the laws, while he may consider himself above the law. He commands his soldiers to keep the country safe, even if they must pay for it with their own lives. The duty of the people is to die for the life of the king.
Not this King Isaiah speaks of: the government is upon His shoulders. He is the One who makes the payment for us. He is the One who keeps God’s Law for us because we cannot. He is the One who keeps us safe by laying down His life for us. This King dies for His citizens. He does so because it must be this way. We cannot conquer sin, death and the devil: even if we marched out against them as one united front, we would still fail. But our King can and has defeated these foes. Rather than keep Himself above the fray and our problems beneath Him, He puts our sin upon His shoulders and bears them to Calvary. This is why the King is Wonderful – He carries His kingdom upon His shoulders for the good of His people.
Behold the wonderful miracle! In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38).
You know the story well. Gabriel announces the Word of God to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus, the Savior; and by the Word of God that the angel proclaims, Jesus is conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit. There are miracles here so astounding that we easily dismiss them because we do not understand them.
A virgin conceived, and that is a miracle in itself; but far more miraculous is the Baby in her womb. The Child is the Son of God. The One just begun in Mary is Mary’s Creator from eternity; and though He will die, He will reign forever and ever. The microscopic, just forming Son in Mary’s womb already bears the government upon His strong shoulders. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17). How can this be? It is far too wonderful, it is far beyond natural happenings. We hear the words, but they are beyond our understanding; it just doesn’t make sense. How can this be? The angel tells us: nothing will be impossible with God.
Notice Mary’s wonderful response: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” This is not a statement of reason, but of faith. Mary does not reject the scenario because of her virginity, nor does she opt out because of the difficult months and years that certainly lie ahead. Rather than look at such reasonable things, she trusts in the Word that the angel declares; for as the Lord announces to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus, by His Word He gives her the faith to believe it.
And if it is hard to believe that something Wonderful is happening when Gabriel appears to Mary, it is even more difficult so to see any wonder at Calvary. For the wondrous miracle on that hill is hidden beneath layer upon layer of shame and humiliation. To all appearances, the One on the cross is a beaten, bloodied criminal, one more casualty of the brutal Roman rule. There is no triumph or glory to be seen, just a horrible death to behold.
Yet behold – the One on the cross is called Wonderful, and His death has a miraculous purpose beyond our understanding. As He bears the government upon His shoulders, He bears our sin upon Himself and dies with it there. He redeems the world that day, for He pays the price of sin – a wonder far beyond our ability to do. He conquers death, as well, for the grave cannot hold Him in the ground. Thus the devil is likewise defeated and stripped of his weapons. This is the wonder of Calvary. For that terrible day is the day of victory over sin and death. We cannot see it, our rational minds want to dismiss it as an untimely and brutal death of a good and decent man. But by faith we know: the crucifixion is full of wonder. The Wonderful One redeemed us there, despite all appearances.
Behold Christ Jesus your Lord, who for you came down from heaven and was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin. Behold Christ Jesus your King, who bears the government on His shoulders. He has paid for your sins, He has borne your iniquities, He forgives you your trespasses so that you might not perish, but have eternal life. Behold Him who is called Wonderful. Amen.
The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.