For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Abbey and I went to see the Houston Symphony’s “Very Merry Pops” earlier this week. They put this show on every year at Christmas—always with different music, of course—and it is enjoyable every time.
Another show they perform annually in December, like many symphonies, is Handel’s “Messiah,” in particular part one, which covers the prophecies of Jesus’ birth up to the event itself. The best-known section of the work as a standalone piece is probably the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which actually appears in our hymnals. But the other bit you might have heard independently on some Christmas albums comes directly from the text in Isaiah quoted above: “For unto us a child is born.”
Isaiah says that unto us a son is given. Consider the significance of that word “given”: seven hundred years before it happened, Isaiah said Jesus would be a special gift from God to us. Isn’t that precisely what John 3:16 says?
In Acts 4, Peter and John have just healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. A huge crowd gathered in response, and they used the opportunity to preach Jesus. That greatly annoyed the chief priests, who had them arrested and held an inquisition, demanding to know by what authority this was done. Peter boldly declared it was by Jesus’ authority: In no one else can salvation be found. For in all the world no other name has been given to men but this, and it is by this name that we must be saved! (Acts 4:12 Phillips)
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul is writing about human gifts. The church in Corinth is taking up offerings to send to the poor saints in Jerusalem, and he commends them for their eagerness to help, reminding them that those who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly, but that those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully. That prompts him to expound upon the way that God so generously blesses us until he comes to his greatest gift: sending Jesus to earth for us. Words fail to fully express that! So Paul abruptly exclaims, Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor 9:15)
Musicians have composed some of their greatest music on this theme, from Handel to some of the most beautiful hymns we know: “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night.” Poets, painters, and sculptors have all taken up the tools of their trade to pay tribute to Jesus, the gift of God’s love. Ultimately, it is indescribable; it is wonderful beyond our ability to convey it.
But what is most important for us to remember is that God has given it to us. God has, in fact, given himself to us. And we ought not to only remember that for a few weeks in December every year. That is what calls us together week by week. To us, a child is born; to us, a son is given. Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:11). Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!