Chapter 3

One More Gift to Give

One More Gift to Give

During the Christmas season, one of the most quoted Scripture verses is from the prophet Isaiah: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (isaiah 9:6).

This passage is the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us a gift that would heal our relationship with

Him (cf. gen. 3:15). The day Jesus was born, this hopeful and long-forgotten promise was fulfilled. Something had to bridge that gulf and bring our hearts back to Him. That something was the Son—the presence of the Son with us.

This famous passage (isaiah 9:6) adorns countless Christmas cards and is quoted from thousands of pulpits every year. And, as with the nativity, familiarity can bring indifference to the beautiful message imagery of this promise.

“A child is born”

Isaiah was in the midst of prophesying against Israel because of her unfaithfulness. Very soon he would tell the Israelites that the Assyrians would be God’s instrument of discipline, coming down upon Israel and overwhelming her. Yet God interrupted this tragic prophecy to speak tenderly about Israel’s future, promising that He would never abandon her, despite her unfaithfulness. As evidence of this promise, a child would be born for her.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (isaiah 7:14).

This is not an allegorical lesson or wishful thinking. No, this is a real promise. God would someday deliver His wayward people, and that deliverance would involve a miraculous human birth at a definite time and place in history.

When we make promises we really intend to keep, we get specific with dates, times, and details. And that’s what God did with Israel. He got specific about this coming Messiah. This wouldn’t be just any child; it would be a child born of a virgin. That is specific!

But notice, this same child would not only be born to a virgin, He would also be born to us. This child would be born to Israel. And all who have become children of Abraham by faith also benefit from God’s eternal plan. This child was a gift not simply to Israel, but to all of mankind.

Then Isaiah gets even more specific: This child will be born of a virgin, will be born to us, and will be a son.

“A son is given”

One day in eternity the Father and Son spoke about the plan for creation. So the Son disguised His glorious divinity, descended to earth, and under the cloak of humanity became the promised child. A child was born; the Son was given.

Mary birthed Jesus, but not until after the Father had first given Him. He was the Son from all eternity, but on a given day He became a child. This was to identify this special child with His eternal, divine origins.

The tradition of exchanging gifts in which we participate so fervently and eagerly at this season can be traced ultimately to the Father. The giving began with Him. The greatest gift came from Him. He gave us a world to live in, and He gave us life to enjoy it. Then, when through our own sin we forfeited that life, the Father gave again. He gave us His Son, and through Him new life, eternal life, not merely as His creation, but as His beloved children.

That life, however, came with a price tag we couldn’t afford. Like the expensive car that is way out of our reach, or the house we could never afford to even think about buying. We did not deserve this second chance, so it had to be given.

“The government will be on His shoulders”

People often expect their government to provide prosperity, peace, justice, compassion, and guidance. But the governments of the world have rested on some pretty weak and narrow shoulders over the years, and none have ever measured up to this lofty goal. In fact, precious few have even sought such a self-sacrificial end. Most seek only their own power and self-aggrandizement.

We tend to be hard on our leaders when they fail, but we must remember that they have an inherent handicap. They are imperfect just like us. We might as well ask a cow to fly south for the winter, or a dog to live underwater like a fish, as ask an imperfect person to govern perfectly. Imperfect people make imperfect laws, which they imperfectly enforce, and which are powerless to change imperfect hearts.

Imagine a government that would be perfect, righteous, fair, effective, and compassionate. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But who would be qualified to lead such a government? Who could bear such a burden? Only the Child born to us, the Son given to us. Because one day the government of all nations and all people will be given to Him forever, and He will govern perfectly, righteously, and eternally.

“And He will be called Wonderful Counselor”

Life is full of so many choices, so many decisions that need to be made. Often we seek counselors who can help us make the right ones. But every counselor is also in need of a counselor. Because, try as we might, it is impossible for any of us imperfect human beings to have a perfect perspective. None of us have all the answers, all the time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did?

Isaiah’s use of the Hebrew word pele, meaning “wonder,” indicates that everything about Jesus is a wonder. He is beyond all we could ever imagine. Jesus is such a wonder, so perfectly capable, that He has no need of counselors. He never has to ask advice, or “get back” to us on something. He has all the answers to everything all the time. Isn’t that wonderful?

The perfect heart and mind are blended in God’s gift to us of a Wonderful Counselor.

“Mighty God”

In the Hebrew, El Gibbor is translated “God, the mighty one.” However, the word Gibbor actually means “hero.” It could be translated “a heroic God,” or “a God of a hero”—a hero whose chief quality is that He is God. He is not just our God; He is our hero. For He not only has the power, but also the desire to rescue us.

Notice the contrast between the terms Mighty God, child, and Son. We think of God’s Son as the meek and gentle child Jesus. But He was in disguise. He was God cloaked in humanity. God incognito. From everlasting, the child born, the Son given, was and is El Gibbor, the Mighty God.

We know people can make promises they don’t intend to keep. But what about the person who can’t deliver on his promise because he doesn’t have the power to make it happen? Is there anything more disappointing? Yet all of the promises implied by these titles of the coming Christ child would be fulfilled because He would be El Gibbor, the Mighty God.

“Everlasting Father”

In this phrase, Isaiah is not confusing Jesus the Son with God the Father. Instead, Isaiah is describing the nature of the Messiah’s relationship with His people and His relationship with time. This child to be born is eternal, and He is fatherly in His dealings with us.

Father! The very word can evoke strong emotions. We love our fathers; we blast our fathers. We blame them for our condition; we bless them for our condition. Yet whether we bless them or blast them, we all seem to be looking and longing for that perfect father relationship. But our human fathers are imperfect, even the best of them. And so we yearn for One who will look out for us, protect us, provide for us, hold us in His strong arms, and answer all our dumb questions.

Whatever our minds and hearts can desire or imagine in a perfect Father, Jesus will be for us . . . forever!

“Prince of Peace”

Almost the moment we are born, the conflicts begin. We fight with our parents, our siblings, our friends, our spouses, our children, our relatives, and our leaders. Peace is our eternally elusive pursuit. Peace between nations, peace between neighbors, peace between spouses, peace between family members, even peace in our own minds and hearts. Many men and women have achieved great things, but no one can claim to have brought the world real peace.

We want peace, but we also want our own way. We desire peace, but we can’t remove all the peace-disturbing things in our life. I can feel at peace toward you, but what happens if you don’t feel at peace toward me? A true and lasting peace in our world is simply beyond our reach. How appropriate then, that as the names of Messiah are

listed, the last one we hear echoing in our minds is Prince of Peace.

Real, lasting peace, for nations or individuals, is not something we achieve; it is something we receive through the Son. It is part of the gift.

Vance Havner once wrote, “Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts: the gift of God to man—His Son;

and the gift of man to God—when we first give ourselves to God.”3

The true Christmas spirit reminds us of the ultimate gift—God’s offer of salvation, His presence with us. It is good news! Good news for all people!

3 Vance Havner in Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World, compiled by Edythe Draper (Wheaton Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), #1360.