For Americans, this has been a year of politics at its worst in campaigning for the highest office in the land. Millions of dollars were spent just to seize a four-year long opportunity to occupy that renowned chair in the White House as Chief Executive of the most powerful country on earth.
This Christmas season then especially as I read again what the prophet Isaiah wrote 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, I can’t help but see an obvious contrast between what men – or women – will do for a position of power versus how God operates in expressing His rightful ultimate authority. “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.” (Isaiah 9:6 KJV) Sound familiar? Handel included this verse in perhaps one of the most famous of choruses in his 1741 Messiah oratorio. Chances are you have or will hear it on the radio or at a church service. There are enough theological statements in this scripture to contemplate and write a book or two about, but for today, the phrase that speaks to me concerns the government being on His shoulder. It’s a metaphor of course, a symbolic and very visual representation of a real circumstance yet to be realized.
Think about it. The same shoulder that bore the cross up the bloody road to Calvary will carry the glorious weight of governing the nations of the world, no longer the enterprise of either good or evil men. He will reign in righteousness on the throne of David with a scepter of compassion in one hand and a rod of iron in the other. And so will be fulfilled another messianic prophecy: “He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation nor will they train for war anymore.” (Is. 2:3-4)
But as for now, as it has been for countless centuries, the world remains full of suffering people, especially in the lands of the Bible. The solution to conflict and war will not come from a political party’s agenda, or a UN resolution, or even from the good will of well-intentioned religious men. What we need now more than ever is the Prince of Peace. But His appearance will come at a great expense. It means that the almighty creator of the universe would lay down His divine rights and become like His creation, in the form of a helpless child, born in a hostile land occupied by a brutal Roman Empire; and it ultimately would cost His innocent life as a sacrificed lamb for the sins of the world. There will be a cost required also for his followers: If you want to be my disciples, He said, deny yourself, take up your own cross and then you can follow Me.
In a couple weeks, on the steps of the capitol building in Washington, D.C., a change of administration will take place. Like so many others before him, a president-elect will swear the oath of office and a new perspective on how this United States should be governed will begin to take shape. Sooner or later, though, the long foretold epiphany of the most momentous transition of all time will finally be accomplished. It will be apocalyptic – the commencement of an everlasting government, the kingdom of God in power and glory on earth – so much more ambitious than any human effort to build a novus ordo seclorum, boasted about on our dollar bills; and far outlasting famed Egyptian and Chinese dynasties, it will be forever, not a proposed mere thousand year Reich.
A foreshadowing, a hint of this transition from man’s way back to God’s way has already begun, long ago on that silent and holy night in a little town called Bethlehem, in a stable, in a manger. As Isaiah wrote, a child is given, the Son of God, to save the world, to bring us long sought-after and longed for peace.
This is truly good news! It should be every newspaper’s headline. Or Breaking News on CNN and Fox News. Remember what the angel told the shepherds: “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (KJV) Even Charlie Brown has heard about it! Like Linus said on stage to the Peanuts gang after quoting it, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”
To all my readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and express my sincerest hope that during this festive but often stressful season you will find comfort in the message of the herald angel to you personally. As the old carol says,
“God rest you merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.”