For Unto Us a Child Is Born

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:2–7, AV)

I find it difficult to read this passage without singing Unto Us a Child Is Born from Handel’s Messiah… and why not! Music transcends life like God transcends the universe… and Revelation 14:3 shows a multitude singing a new song in the future heaven. Is that metaphorical… or will we be singing? I don’t know… nor does it matter. What matters is that our song is real in the here and now.

The Western world celebrates Christmas this month — and yes, we know that it’s uncertain whether or not Jesus was born during this season… and that people are quick to assign evil motives behind the placement into its December home. But the calendar is neither here nor there. It’s the story that’s important… and the story of Christ’s birth has been preserved and passed down to us — not as a critical history… but as a story — a pericope… and in a manner consistent with the ancient oral traditions.

History is an important component of God’s story, of course, because God’s story has always played out upon it… but history per se is its own project — one which is different from the project of literature. They necessarily intertwine, of course… that’s how culture works! But let’s not miss God’s point in the pursuit of minor details like the precise date of Jesus’ birth, or miss it by going down the rabbit hole of who assigned the date of December 25 and why. Instead, let’s rejoice! The Savior has come!

Jesus’ story is known to history … but it is told in literature… and I can’t emphasize this enough. Mark invented a new literary form just for this purpose of telling God’s story. We call it a gospel… and this is different from a history or from an authorized biography. The purpose of the gospel was to announce the good news that the Messiah had come… and each gospel writer did this with a different emphasis.

Sure, their stories are full of history… how could they not be! But let’s not miss the point. The fact that the Messiah had come was the fulcrum of that history! If it were not, then God missed his moment. But God didn’t miss his moment. In the fullness of time, God sent his Son. We are thereby full.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Merry Christmas! 

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