I 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. 😉