Christmas is too wonderfully magnificent to be confined to one solitary, fleeting day. There is a deathless significance in this Child of Christmas, a permanent and divinely bestowed gift of God, which brings perpetual happiness, immeasurable and unspeakable, both here and hereafter.
If you have never permitted the star of faith to guide you to Bethlehem; if you have never opened the door of your heart to receive the Christ-Child; if with Herod-like determination you have steadfastly tried to stifle the glorification of the Babe in Bethlehem, I ask you to follow the lowly shepherds to that glorious Child in Mary’s arms.
Seven centuries before the heavenly messenger aroused the drowsy Judean shepherds, Isaiah, the evangelist of the Old Testament, strikes at the very heart and center of a Christ-conscious Christmas when he identifies this Christmas-Child by these five glorious names: “Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah calls the Christ-Child, first of all, “Wonderful,” or, as we can emphatically reproduce the original, “The Miracle.” Daniel Webster was once asked whether he could understand Christ. He declared, “If I could comprehend Him, He would be no greater than myself. I feel that I need a super-human Savior.” The Christmas message is thus not an appeal to reason. Rather, it is an appeal to the truth of God’s love; it is the mystery of God’s becoming man; Divinity putting on humanity; the Creator appearing as creature; the eternal Son of God incarnate as the Son of Man.
This Babe in the manger is the super-human solution to the great and universal problem of sin. When the stern demand of God’s holiness tells you, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4); when it continues, “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23); and when it points the finger of accusation at you, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7)—then to every one who humbly and gratefully accepts Him for who He is, the wonder of wonders is accomplished, and they are all assured of this: “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Here is the glorious wonder of this wonderful Child—there is no sin too great, no offense too vile, no wrong too oppressive to be removed freely and completely and for all time by His priceless, deathless love.
The second blessed name is “Counsellor.” I believe that for many, the need of a capable, competent counsellor has never been as great as it is today. You who have gone on year after year with a smug sense of self-satisfaction and with a good deal of confidence in your money power, your brain power, your social power, but who have found that this house of cards in which you have enshrined your happiness has been puffed over by bank failures, financial reverses, and unemployment, and who now look around for someone and something that can lift you out of the labyrinth of hopelessness and helplessness—you can find a divine Counsellor today in Bethlehem.
Here is a Counsellor who is concerned first and foremost about the soul that lives on after the trinkets of this world crumble into disappointing dust. Here is the faithful and efficient Counsellor, who tells us, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33); that is, get right with God. Remove the barrier that separates you from God and that keeps you away from the inner happiness which alone makes life worth living. And when you come and ask, “How can I get right with God? How can I remove the impurity of sin from my life?”—great and wonderful Counsellor that He is, this Christ tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). There is no sorrow too deep to be healed by the balm of His consoling love. Believe Him, when He calls out to you, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
The third name of this Wonder-Child is “The Mighty God.” Here, then, we have Christ who—from the lowly beginning at Bethlehem until the bitter, heart-breaking end at Calvary—claimed to be, proved to be, and was declared by God to be, God manifest in the flesh. He had to be God to offer substitution for the overpowering weight of sin and its consequences. He had to be God to give humanity a hope that was stronger than human power, truer than mortal truth, more hopeful than earth’s strongest hope.
I sometimes wonder whether we realize, even as far as this is humanly possible, the practical meaning of this sublime truth, that God became man, that He lived and walked and had His being here on earth, in the closest contact with sin-stained men. What unutterable love, what indescribable mercy, what unfathomable grace! And what surpassing promise! For does not He who once trod the paths of men give to those who know Him and who love Him and who have been reconciled by His atoning blood the assurance even in today’s turmoil, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”? Think of this priceless Christmas-gift of God’s grace, Immanuel, “God with us.” God with us to turn the night of sin and sorrow into the brilliancy of a radiant day! God with us as the all-sufficient, all-embracing Friend, Guide, and Savior, now and forevermore!
Yes, “forevermore,” because Isaiah’s fourth name for this helpless Infant is “The Everlasting Father.” The highest achievements of human ambitions rise only to fade. They are here today and gone tomorrow. But I want you to look with me at this Pillar of the Ages, this changeless Christ for a changing world—Him who is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), and find in Him the everlasting Rock of Ages to which you can cling with unending and undying assurance. Friends and their favors may change; your hopes and plans may be shattered and crushed, but here in this Child is God’s answer to your search for eternity, the solution of the mystery of the grave, the promise of Him who says, “because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19); whose eternity is the unfailing pledge of our life after death.
Think of the other word, “Father,” and remember that behind all the love that this word expresses and the confidence that it inspires, leading us to come to Christ as loving children come to their loving father, there is the majesty of power, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the very revelation of God to mankind. When Christ complied with Philip’s request, “Lord, show us the Father,” He answered, “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). My friends, I pause to ask you, Have you seen the Father in Christ? Remember, if you think you have seen God in any other way; if you think you can accept God without accepting Jesus Christ; if you try to stifle the appeal of the Bible by asserting that you believe in a “Supreme Being” or in “the Great Creator” or in “the Father of us all,” and exclude Christ from all this, then you do not know the meaning of Christmas, and you do not know God.
Prince of Peace
But the sweetest note of the Christmas message comes in Isaiah’s last name for the Christ-Child, “The Prince of Peace.” Above all the hatred of a war-torn world, the Christmas anthem “Peace on earth” goes out into the world to tell men that the only way to establish peace with our God and peace with our conscience is to come to Christ and to believe that He has effectually and forever removed the discord that exists between the holiness of God and the unholiness of men; that He by His incarnation, by the poverty and suffering to which He as the Lord of lords and the King of kings subjected Himself, satisfied the claims of divine justice and offers to all the benefits of that momentous peace treaty between heaven and earth that has been signed and sealed by His very blood.
What greater cause of rejoicing, even in heaven, than this, that some of you who are still at war with God, who are still allied with the forces of sin and hell, come to accept peace—not the peace of the world, but the peace of the soul that Christ Himself offers. Thus, and thus alone, can Christmas be to you what it should be—the birthday of Christ, The Prince of Peace, not only in Bethlehem, but also in your innermost heart. Amen.
—Dr. Walter A. Maier, adapted