The following is the introduction to a four part series on preparing your heart for the Christmas Season. It has been adapted from a sermon called “Preparing Your Heart for the Christmas Season” delivered at Hope Community Church by Steve Treichler on November 30, 2003.
Every year at Christmas time, I feel like Charlie Brown, in my second favorite Christmas classic cartoon, when he screams, “Doesn’t anyone know the real meaning of Christmas?!?”
Christmas can be a season that is so filled with preparations of shopping, getting ready for family coming over, shopping, decorating, baking, shopping, parties, school concerts, and shopping . . . that we miss the whole thing, and before we know it . . . it’s over for another year.
So, in order to prepare us for the “shock and awe” that Christmas can be, I’d like to look at a passage of Scripture, probably the most famous of all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus. It is found in the Old Testament book written by Isaiah and carries his name. The book itself was written about 700 before the birth of Christ. Isaiah was born into an influential, upper-class family, and often rubbed shoulders with royalty and gave advice concerning the foreign affairs of the nation of Israel. In the 6th chapter of this book, Isaiah is remarkably called into service for God, seeing a vision of God in all His holiness. He instantly becomes a prophet, or spokesperson, for God.
It was rough times in the nation of Israel during the time of Isaiah. They had stopped following God and had become idol or false god worshippers. Socially, they were financially corrupt, sexually immoral and full of pride and indignation. It was not a good period in the history of Israel.
Isaiah’s job, primarily, was to let the people know that unless they turned from their ways, and returned to following the true God, God would bring punishment upon them, primarily in the form of allowing, or actually God would aid, a foreign army to invade them, destroy them, and scatter the remnant left all over the known world. It was not a happy message.
The passage we are going to look at is set in this dark backdrop, and it is like a someone turning on a floodlight in a completely darkened room. Look at Isaiah 9:6-7:
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. Of the increase 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 for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
— Isaiah 9:6-7
Now, what does it mean that “he will be called” all these names? Names in those days were much more than just a name to distinguish you from someone else, similar to the number you get when you come here to the U of MN. No, a name was much more than that. Your given name was thoroughly thought through, giving you an identity and a direction for your life. We don’t do that as much anymore, but names were chosen, not so much for what they sounded like, but what they meant in those days.
However, you were also granted “names” that would not appear on your Department of Motor Vehicle records in Jerusalem. These names were more like titles or descriptions of what you are or will be when you are born. And that is what we have here. Four names, four wonderful descriptions of what was soon to come. Matthew quotes another prophecy of Isaiah concerning Jesus in Matthew 1:23 (quoting Isaiah 7:14).
23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”— which means, “God with us.”
So 700 years before the event, God had Isaiah write the words that would let people have hope in a dark period of history.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll take a closer look at those 4 names Jesus is called in Isaiah 9:6-7: