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Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

6 For to 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. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Background

Isaiah sees in his vision a light shining on the forlorn and weary wanderers. They had been wandering in the “living in a land of deep darkness” (the phrase comes from Psalm 23:4; Job 3:5), almost as in the gloom of the land of the dead. Suddenly there breaks in the dawn of a new and glorious day. Historically, Isaiah sees the return of some of the inhabitants of that region to their allegiance to God and the house of David (2 Chronicles 30:11; 2 Chronicles 30:13) and this may have been the starting point of his hope for the nation of Israel. The message probably shows that he was thinking of Assyrian invasions, and the defeat of Assyrian armies, of a nation growing strong in numbers and prosperity.  In this, as in other cases of prophesy, we adapt the words to a further meaning which were not necessarily in the mind of Isaiah. Today, we see the Son of man, Jesus, appearing as the light of the world. Isaiah’s words seem to be the only adequate expression of hope.

Isaiah earlier mentioned a child who would be born and who would be named Immanuel (7:14). Now he mentions a child again, a very special child who will enjoy great authority and wisdom and who will establish endless peace. Government during Isaiah’s time was regarded as a burden, to be carried on the back or shoulders of the people. Unfortunately, not too much has changed in today’s world either. However, this “son” is going to bear the burden on his own shoulders so the people no longer need to uphold their burden.

We are always surprised that God would choose to raise a child, a newborn, to deliver his people and to establish peace, justice, and righteousness. We would expect him as did the people of Isaiah’s time, to raise up a mighty warrior like King David rather than a child. However, we must remember that David wasn’t a mighty warrior when God chose him. He was only a shepherd boy, the youngest son of Jesse. David too was such an unlikely candidate that Jesse didn’t even think to bring David in from the fields when Samuel came looking for the one who would become king (1 Samuel 16). It is God’s usual practice to use as His instrument someone who has nothing to offer except God’s blessing. A child, then, would be an obvious choice,  a newborn infant an even more obvious choice.

  • The four titles express the essential character of this new king:
    WONDERFUL COUNSELOR: The child will be a wise counselor, which contrasts wonderfully with King Ahaz, whose foolish policies have been so destructive.
  • MIGHTY GOD: Filled with Godly power to lead faithfully. This king will have God’s true might about Him, power so great that it can absorb all the evil which can be thrown at Him.
  • EVERLASTING FATHER: Our earthly fathers (including father-figures such as kings) live/reign for only a period of time and then they are gone. This child will become a father whose reign will last forever.
  • PRINCE OF PEACE: The establishment and maintenance of peace is no small achievement. The peaceful reign of this child will contrast nicely with the chaotic reign of Ahaz.

The characteristics of the child-king’s reign (government) will be:

  • Growing authority.
  • Endless peace.
  • Justice: Fair treatment for all, regardless of position, power, or wealth.
  • Righteousness: Protection of those who are weak.
  • From now and forever–This kind of everlasting rule cannot be achieved by mere power or wealth. It requires God’s help, and that in turn requires that the ruler rule in justice and righteousness.

God is no dispassionate God. He is zealous and determined to establish peace, justice, and righteousness. He has shown His zealousness over a period of centuries as He has patiently shaped and molded His people. It has been and will continue to be a rocky road, because the people are fundamentally rebellious. Nevertheless, in his zeal, God will continue to rebuke, reshape, woo, and love His people.

Items for Discussion

  • Why is the contrast of walking from darkness into light so effective in describing Christianity?
  • List a few burdens of Government.  How would you expect Christ’s Kingdom and rule to be different?
  • Think about the attributes of a king versus just an elected official. Why does the next world require a “King?”
  • Isaiah and the prophesy of Christ really opens our advent season. Why should we pay attention to the prophetic stories in the Bible?
  • Our world really doesn’t get the true meaning of Christ’s coming as a child.  How should we tell the story so more people understand who He is?

 

John 1:14-19
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. 19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.

Background

We can begin by understanding that “the Word became flesh,” means that there is only one person who has always been God’s Son. Jesus became like us, human. But He had always existed, although not as a human person. He had been with God  in heaven, even before He was born. Jesus came to show us the truth about God. He showed us how much God loves us and how kind God is to us, even when we do not deserve it. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he recognized him as the Messiah. John the Baptist emphasized that Jesus was much more important than himself. Although Jesus was a man, He had always existed and John the Baptist recognized this. When we trust in Jesus is when we  receive His many blessings, blessings that cannot be earned or that we deserve. They are God’s free gifts to us.

God gave the Law to Moses so that the people would know how to behave. The Law emphasized God’s perfect moral standards. Unfortunately, no one could obey all of the Law’s rules. It was too difficult. However, Jesus emphasized that God wanted to forgive us. When we trust Jesus, we receive God’s forgiveness. Jesus did not come to replace God’s Law but to make it complete. Before Jesus came, people followed a rigid set of rules. Now we follow a person, Jesus. To trust Jesus is to have a relationship with Him. Through that relationship, we are guided to do the right things, to please God.

Up until Christ’s birth, God had spoken by means of Moses and the prophets. But nobody had ever seen God. People only knew the characteristics of God. However, by means of His Son, God came down to earth. This message was one that John the Baptist was sharing. He lived in the desert. He wore clothes that he had made from camels’ hair. He ate strange food (Matthew 3:4). His father Zechariah was a priest.

John the Baptist was not a political leader but he gained power because many people listened to his message. John the Baptist’s message was to repent and to receive baptism. So when the Jewish leaders heard about John the Baptist, they sent some priests to him. They wanted to know if John the Baptist was teaching wrong beliefs. They needed to know if he was a genuine prophet. Also, perhaps they also came because they were jealous; He was popular with the people.

Items for Discussion

  • Why does the attribute of forgiveness make Christianity such a unique faith?
  • How do you think John the Baptist’s strange looks and personal habits either helped or hurt his effectiveness?
  • Jesus said yes to becoming a human, with all the pain and anguish that we deal with. Why was there no other way?
  • Why is the message “repent and be baptized” so perfect for the world, even today?

Discussion Challenge

  • How can we help show people that the Christ child is the incarnate God we all seek?
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