Reflection: Isaiah 9: 1 – 7
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Jesus did not just come; He was a gift from God. In fact, Paul described Him as the indescribable or supremely generous gift (2 Cor 9:15). This Divine unspeakable largesse is worthwhile exploring as the Immanuel gifting is significant beyond our common understanding of festive gift giving during Christmas. This eschatological birth announcement speaks to us about the Giver and the basis on which the Gift was given.
A couple with a helpless child in a feeding trough, being visited by curious clueless shepherds and strange Eastern seers does not smack of greatness. Nor can anything good come out of Nazareth! The expectation is not a leader who became an itinerant teacher of peace and reconciliation, born to a lowly family in the Judean boondocks. And, certainly not someone who surrendered to his captors without resistance, and subsequently crucified as a common criminal. These circumstances reflect God’s perennial fingerprints throughout His interaction with humanity; He enigmatically chooses the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong (1 Cor 1:27). God coming in weakness became the surprising gift to an astonished mankind, a most reluctant receiver. This Isaiah prophecy, pregnant with the ultimate fulfillment of the Immanuel sign, points us towards the Messiah where a virgin-born Child would demonstrate that God is with us; the Mighty God with a most human of arrivals on earth – His birth; a royal Son-Deliverer and Ruler, yet was never known as a king; the Bringer of peace on earth possessing a childlike face, and Who would overcome His enemies by becoming vulnerable, transparent and humble.
The Messiah’s God-given titles follow His introduction as His gift. He is a wonder of a counselor, where His unfailing depth of wisdom distinguishes that in weakness is strength, in surrender is victory, and in death is life. This king will have God’s true might about Him; power so great that it can absorb all the evil which can be hurled at it until none of it is left. His Fatherly rule will endure forever. He will be the bringer and establisher of peace, and the reconciler between God and man, that will then make possible reconciliation between man and man. This Davidic King will be the final King to end all kings, in a kingdom that will be ruled on the basis of justice and righteousness, instead of coercion and violence. And this unusual course of events would only take place as a result of God’s passionate involvement with His people and His never-ending love for them.
Because He is a gift, it is all about grace! We did not earn it, neither did we have a choice in it: the gift was given out of sheer Divine generosity. We forget, for example, that He had become our righteousness (Rom 5:17), having done everything for us. Being typically human, we inevitably allow ourselves from time-to-time to slip into a mode of justification where we think that our righteousness becomes acceptable by God. However, like any gift, we only know its true value when we go through the mill ourselves. At that juncture, like the pearl merchant in Matthew’s Gospel, we become aware of the inestimable value of this Gift. God gave us His Son because He thinks we mean more to Him than we know; perhaps not unlike the kind of questions that would cross our minds when we receive a surprisingly expensive gift from someone we barely know! Admittedly, a significant gift is meant to be treasured, and its Giver, constantly appreciated. Amidst the joy, as we recall the significance of our Father’s GIFT to us this Christmas, may we seek others out to share this indescribable GIFT with them.