For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Today, we celebrate a son born to a young woman during what seemed to be just another ordinary night. She was no doubt scared and overwhelmed with her circumstances. Certainly, her husband must have looked on in wonder as his bride held fast to the whispered instructions and words of encouragement given her by faithful, older women. She did what so many women before her and after her did: she delivered a boy.
And together with her husband, they named him Jesus.
Our traditions make the scene in that barn the stuff of childhood nursery stories. We paint it in gentle colors that soften the edges of reality. And we focus on the beauty and joy of new beginnings without giving much thought to the purpose of those beginnings.
The reason Christmas is not simply another ordinary, albeit “Oh yeah, wait ’til you hear my labor and delivery,” story is not because Jesus was born. It isn’t even because Mary was a virgin at his conception. It is because his advent marked the road to a triumph that would change the face of the world. It is Christ as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace that calls out that dark night when shepherds were watching their flocks. The child in the manger was the precursor to our Savior on the cross. And the angels were singing for joy over the work of salvation brought forth in the fullness of God’s time.
Our quaint bedtime story of a sweet baby lying, nestled in a bed of straw can too often forget that same soul, hanging, nailed to a tree. But that is what Christmas must mean. It must be the celebration that points towards the greatest purpose of God’s advent – His willingness to save His people from their sin.