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The Fifth Day of Advent – December 7

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders…
Isaiah 9:6a-b

How quickly we will go from saying “Merry Christmas!” to “Happy New Year!”, and from singing “Joy to the World” to “Auld Lang Syne”. Yet, it is entirely fitting that in our calendars and in our thinking, we go from the Child born for us to new beginnings and a new year. The Christ Child born for us is a time-changer, a world-changer, such that early Christians hailed Him “Pantocrator” or “Ruler of All”. So momentous, so consequential did His birth prove to be, that people thought it necessary to measure time as B. C., “Before Christ”, and A. D., Anno Domini, “In the year of our Lord.” That meant that the Greek word euangellion, once used to celebrate the birth of Caesar Augustus, was used instead to celebrate the Child born for us! Thus, the herald angel sent shepherds running with the birth announcement: “I am bringing you good news (euangellion) of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

From today’s scripture we learn about this Child that “authority rests on his shoulders.” In ancient Israel governing authority was looked upon as a responsibility borne on one’s shoulders, and symbolized by a key or a scepter laid across a new sovereign’s shoulder. Isaiah unfolds in future visions that this child’s shoulders will bear world governing authority: “I will place on his shoulders the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one open” (Isaiah 22:22). Centuries later the angel Gabriel discloses to Mary the supreme authority that her Son will bear: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

The Good News of the Child’s authority stood out for Isaiah as he prophesied during the harsh, corrupt reign of King Ahaz (Isaiah 1:1;7:1). Isaiah pointed to Ahaz and the nation’s degenerate rulers as the root of the nation’s moral confusion and decline: “For those who led this people led them astray, and those who were led by them were left in confusion” (Isaiah 9:16). Isaiah recognized that the nation’s survival was threatened both by enemies without and within. Tiglath-Pileser III had taken Assyria to the pinnacle of power and now his successor Shalmaneser threatens to attack, such that “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). Israel is so spiritually darkened that people “will turn their faces upwards, or they will look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into deep darkness” (Isaiah 8:22).

But God does not forget His people then, or today. Amidst gathering gloom Isaiah receives word from the Lord directing His gaze to a yet glorious future: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). And what is the cause of the great light that Isaiah sees? “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually and there shall be endless peace… (Isaiah 9:6-7a). “Along with the cross, all the sin and need of this world will be loaded on these shoulders. But the authority will consist in this, that the one bearing this load does not collapse but rather brings it to its goal.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Mystery of Holy Night)

This Child born for us, and Son given to us will faithfully, relentlessly bring God’s saving work to its goal. British statesman Lord Acton observed, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But Lord Acton was only partially right. Yes, power does tend to corrupt, but the one person with absolute power is the incorruptible Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Almighty. And He is coming, and a new world with Him! “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Here is Good News (euangellion) of the light of the Child born for us, the Son given to us. He is the Jesus Light!


God of promise, we are in awe of Your love for us that reaches from eternity to eternity. But sometimes we live as though this world is everything, putting our dreams and ambitions into the one basket of the here and now. Help us to live the gift of this day in the light of Christ’s new day. Redirect us. Remold us. Reorient us to see all of life within its eternal dimensions. Point us towards Your eternal day when we shall forever reign with Jesus and delight in Him. We ask this in the name of the Sovereign Ruler of all. Amen.

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