Christmas. It is a wonderful time of the year. Yes, it can be a bit chaotic and busy, but with the carols and celebrations, the family and friends, we hear the name of Jesus on the lips many. Even those who do not have a personal relationship with Him seem more inclined to speak of and sing about and mention “the baby born” during this time of year. In some circles, it’s even traditional to have a birthday cake for Jesus.
But is that it? Is that why we celebrate? Because it’s Jesus’ birthday?
The prophet Isaiah foretold the grounds for our celebration:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
So, yes, we celebrate the birth of this child, the incarnate Prince of Peace. But the context of Isaiah’s words provides us something of a different perspective.
In the first eight chapters of Isaiah, we learn a great deal about the condition of the nation of Israel. They have abandoned the Lord and despised their God (1:4). Although the Lord would cleanse them if they were to repent, they stubbornly continue to resist Him (1:18–25). He has ordained trouble for the people so as to turn their hearts back to Him. So, the setting of Isaiah 9 is to be found in the rebellion in the life of the nation.
Why is Isaiah 9 then good news for them? It isn’t simply that a child would be born. It is that a king would come!
The government would rest on His shoulders. There would be no end to the increase of His government (1:7). He would sit on an eternal throne (1:7). He would rule with justice and righteousness (1:7). He would rule forevermore.
The nation was spiritually destitute and, because of that, under the sway of foreign invaders. God’s solution was to overthrow the invaders and turn the heart of the people back to Himself through a divinely appointed sovereign king. The nation was in rebellion to God. They didn’t need coaching or help or advice. They need someone to defeat the invaders and overthrow their own rebellion. And God promised to do that (9:7).
Israel was in need of spiritual remedy and a national and temporal rescue. We are in need of a spiritual remedy and a personal and eternal rescue. We were enemies of God (Romans 5:10); we were rebels (Romans 1:18). We didn’t merely need advice or assistance. We needed to be conquered–overthrown–in order to be made truly free to be God’s people.
That is why we can celebrate–the king has come who can overthrow our rebellion. The king has come to lead us into life in a different kingdom. The reason we celebrate at Christmas is that we were given the King we needed!