The Son, the Child

Christmas presentsI confess that there have been years when I feel a little jaded about Christmas. No, not because of the commercialization of it all, though I’ve had years like that, too. More it has to do with hearing Christmas sermons that seem … less than enlightening.

I suppose some pastors do struggle with what to say five or ten years into their ministry when they’ve already delivered messages about the shepherds, the angels, the wisemen, the innkeeper, Joseph, Mary. What’s left?

Well, the Son is, and it seems to me there is limitless material for sermons about Jesus Christ. I have to say, I’ve had years when my former pastors hit homeruns with their special Christmas series. I’m thinking of one particular year when his sermons were timely, Christ centered, enlightening, Biblical. Good, good stuff.

But one of the new insights I gained some years ago came from a sermon I heard on the radio, delivered by Alister Begg (Truth for Life). The particular message came from a series based on the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9:

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light …
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.

A familiar passage, to be sure, not unusual for a Christmas time sermon or series. So what new thing did I learn? Not a new thing, really, but something I didn’t realize this passage upholds.

It has to do with the line, For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us. I’ve always looked at that as an example of Jewish poetic redundancy (also known by it’s actual name, parallelism), something you often see in the Psalms and in Proverbs (ie, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you/Bind them around your neck”).

But here’s the point I was reminded of: When God inspired the writers of Scripture, He delivered exactly the words He wanted that would communicate truth, nuanced truth that allows us to uncover layers and layers and layers of His revelation throughout our whole lives.

In the verse above Pastor Begg pointed out that Scripture does not say, “For a Son will be born to us, a child will be given.” The Son is preexistent. He was with the Father in the beginning. He was not born that first Christmas day. But a Child was—God incarnate, the Son, come down.

A small word order, but it carries a wonderful truth!

This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in December 2008, when I used to write short posts. 😉

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Published in: on December 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 Comments

  1. […] via The Son, the Child — A Christian Worldview of Fiction […]

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  2. I know _just enough_ about Hebrew to be dangerous, so I checked with my dad, who studied it when he was about my age, and he reinforced what I had vaguely remembered: Biblical Hebrew doesn’t _have_ tenses in the same way that English does. It has an elaborate system of verb forms, but that system doesn’t map onto tenses very well. In fact, we looked up Isaiah 9:6 in the Hebrew, and it’s more literally “To-us little-child child-born”—no verb at all. So while this passage is certainly *consistent* with the doctrine of the eternal preexistence of the Son, I’m not at all comfortable saying that the grammar of this passage *supports* it. (Except perhaps in the Septuagint.)

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    • Thanks for weighing in on the subject, Jonathan. I guess I wasn’t particularly clear. I don’t think the tense is the issue. It’s the choice of words between given and born. The preexistent Son wasn’t conceived, but the form in which He came–the Child–was. The Son Who existed before the foundation of the world was the gift God gave to us. The reverse could not be said. Taking the literal translation you wrote in your comment, we could not substitute son for child: “To us little son son born .” No, the Son did not come into being at birth in the way the Child did.

      I know to some it seems like splitting hairs, but I find it consistent with God’s inspiration of Scripture and with His self-revelation, which would be without error, even in the choice of a single word.

      Becky

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  3. I agree that it is better, at Christmas, to focus on the miracle of the Incarnation rather than the angel, the shepherds, the ox and donkey, and all the other details. I think some Christians prefer Christmas to Good Friday and Easter because they have God contained in a box (the manger) and in the body of an infant. The image shifts when we remember that, from that manger, he was running the universe. J.

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    • What an awesome image, Salvageable. Running the universe from that manger. Love it! Yes, the same One who created the Universe and who sustains it was lying in that box.

      I never thought about how “manageable” that makes Him appear, but you’re right. Much easier to ooh and ah over a baby. Much harder to understand why the God-in-the-likeness-of-man would give His life for sinners.

      Becky

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