IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT

The Birth, The Gift

Date: Dec. 23, 2009

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Isaiah 9:1-7

Key Verse: Isaiah 9:6

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”

Merry Christmas, everyone! I don’t know about you, but it sort of seems like Christmas has already passed. We had the big Christmas Worship Service last Sunday. Last Saturday, my parents came up and the gift exchange happened, so it really feels like Christmas is done, but here we are again with a Christmas message.   I don’t know about you, but I have to get back into the Christmas spirit. Let me start by talking about what Christmas stands for. We know that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Because of that, there is this popular notion that Christmas is about joy and peace and good tidings and giving. It’s a time when people give (and get) presents to loved ones. Unfortunately, there are some that really hate Christmas. These people are stereotyped by characters, like Scrooge from A Christmas Carol and the Grinch, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. There are people like this, who are selfish and don’t want to give, but more often Christmas becomes a time to remember what a person does not have. All the ads deal with giving gifts, but some people have no money or friends and it becomes burdensome. Some people don’t feel like that there is much to be joyful about: the economy is still in the tank, some are out of jobs and debt is growing, some have loved ones that have died or are sick. Others just feel miserable all the time. You might be thinking that that’s because they are missing the point of Christmas; they have lost Jesus and made it about themselves. You are very right, so let’s think about that.

Before we can think about Jesus, we have to think about us. So before we get into this passage, let’s go a few verses before it in Isaiah 8, starting at verse 19, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” (Isaiah 8:19-22) The people were turning away from God and trying to seek help from other sources. They sought the counsel of the dead. The result is that all they see is dead. They don’t see any hope, because there is no hope in the dead. Likewise, when we start looking to the things of the world for our hope, all that we will find is gloom and darkness. If you follow the course of evolution, it says that we have no purpose and everything that you do is meaningless. You might as well kill yourself now, if that is the case.

You see it in the world. There are so many people who are walking in this darkness. One of the ways that I see this is that people are very quick to complain. People complain so much about everything. When people have jobs, they complain about their jobs, when they don’t then they complain that they don’t have a job. Marriage is such a blessing, but the common thought is to refer to the wife as the “old ball and chain”, that marriage is stifling and limits our individual abilities. That’s why so many marriages end in divorce. This also shows that people are very self-seeking. Many people’s workplaces are rife with this. How many people in the office are only looking out for themselves? There are some who tear down others to make themselves look good. People are bitter and vile and only seek to improve their own situation. Look at reality shows and you see it. Backstabbing and foul play are always crowd favorites. Humanity without God is dark and appalling.

Yet, God didn’t want to leave us that way. From right when man first sinned, God promised redemption. And in this passage, you can see that there is hope for those in distress. “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” (1a) There is hope! There is hope for those who are full of gloom that it will pass. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (2) All that talk of doom and gloom and death will end. The darkness that is in our souls can end. The smell of death that surrounds us will go away. This source of hope is so dramatic that it is like light to someone living in darkness. The nightmare is over a new day had dawned.

But the Bible also gives this time some other imagery. “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.  For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.  Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” (3-5) With this great light, comes a time of rejoicing. It is rejoicing because of victory. I remember when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. When they won the last game, the guy living downstairs from me shouted for joy and then ran up and down the street shouting at the top of his lungs. That’s the type of rejoicing that the Bible is talking about. It is a time when the war is over, like the celebration that happened when WWII finally ended or like when the battle of the semester is finally over. It is a time of unbelievable joy and the mechanics of war would be burned.

Also it mentions that burdens would be lifted. This is the burde n of sin and death, and all the burdens we put on our own shoulders. All these will come to an end! Who loves taking time off from the worries that burden you? Sometimes, just a little bit of rest gives us the strength to carry on, but the imagery that the Bible uses here is of the real rest. This is the real Sabbath that God originally intended before man fell. It is a time of no more worries and no more pain, a time of peace.

So what brings all this hope and peace and rejoicing? “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” (6a) As parents know, when a child is born, it’s a really joyful time, but with this child it is more than that. This child is Jesus; the one who is the hope of those oppressed by sin and death. Jesus is this child of salvation. And, if you look at the verse again, you see that there are two parts. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” God’s salvation would be through a person born into the world. In Luke’s gospel is the account of Jesus’ birth. When Jesus was born, angels came out to the fields near Bethlehem and announced to shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) These angels said that a Savior has been born and that he was Christ – that he was God’s chosen ruler. The angels announced that the time referred to in Isaiah 9, this passage, had come, because the Savior had been born.

The other part of verse 6a says, “…to us a son is given.” This is a different thought than a child being born. When the Bible says that a son is given, it means that God gives him. In other words, God sent his salvation to us. There is a very famous verse that illustrates this: John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There’s that word – gave. This reminds us that salvation comes entirely from God. Although a child may have been born, God gave his preexisting Son to be that child.

That’s a pretty special child. Who is this child, though? The last part of verse 6 gives us the answer, “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Now, we’ve heard these before and they give four different identities of Christ. I don’t want to go in to a lot of detail, but this child…this son…Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for, for many reasons. Jesus is the example of our lives. He was born to show us how to live sinless lives. His actions counsel us to walk the paths of righteousness. Also, Jesus is God. John 1 shows that Jesus is God who created all things. He’s almighty in that way. Then, there is Jesus like a father to us he watches over us and gives us the right to become children of God. And, the last one written here is that Jesus brings peace to our souls. The war between God and man would end because of the treaty of peace that Jesus bore on his body. Again, that is an amazing child!

But this passage says more about this child, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (7) Jesus is the King who would rule over David’s throne forever. God promises that what Jesus did could not be undone. Jesus’ justice and righteousness cannot end. No matter how hard it gets for us, no matter how bad the world seems to be, Jesus’ kingdom cannot be overthrown and those who are his cannot be taken away.

And here, we get into the real meat of it. Our key verse says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” (6a) It’s not just that a child is born and a son is given, Jesus was born to us and Jesus was given to us. Jesus isn’t just the savior of everyone; he is your Savior. He came for you. Jesus came to you because you were in distress. He came because you were burdened with sin and despair and Satan’s attacks. There was a righteous man named Job. He followed all of God’s ways and repented for all his sins and the sins of his children, known and unknown. He was wealthy and blessed. Satan wanted to show that Job only loved God because God blessed him. God knew otherwise and allowed Satan to attack Job. In a very short time, he lost everything: all his children died, all his wealth vanished, and he was filled with painful sores and became so disfigured that he was unrecognizable. He had it really, really bad. Everyone was telling him to curse God and die. Job had no idea why this is happening and as he groaned in wondering, he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27) In the midst of all his pain and questioning, he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) He saw Jesus! Job saw that Jesus would come to the earth and bring redemption. To Job a child had been born, to Job a son had been given. Jesus was Job’s personal Savior and he yearned to see him.

So how about us in this room? Is Jesus our personal Savior? Has this child really been born to us? Has this son really been given to us? Sometimes, I really wonder about that…not about that the child was born or that God gave his son, but that we have accepted this personally. I say this because most of the time we are very straight-faced; some may say reserved. When we share testimonies, it is usually a very somber moment and we cry a lot over our sins. While repentance is required so that we can accept Jesus as our Savior, if we are crying over our sins all the time, we are still stuck in gloom and distress and this passage says, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” (1a) If Jesus has been given to you, then why are you are still distressed and gloomy? Why do you feel burdened to serve him?

For Jesus to be your Savior, you should mourn over your sins, but that darkness that you have walked in is ending. A light now shines and you have hope. How do you react to that hope and promise? This passage talks about rejoicing. “They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” (3) There is a lot of rejoicing in the Bible. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Now some people might say, “We’re just not that way here. IIT students aren’t like that.” You might be right, but it is God that gives us this joy because of Jesus. Besides, I’ve seen many of you guys when it comes to sports. Whether it is soccer, baseball, football or basketball, you guys are cheering loudly when your team is winning or a great play was made. This expressive joy is in you and it should be so much greater for Jesus than it is for sports because God gave his Son to you.

Ok, now some might say, “I know on the inside that Jesus is my Savior. I don’t need to show that type of reaction. I’m good.” Well, the proof of Jesus being your Savior is not in your feelings, but in your actions. The Bible says that faith without action is not faith at all. God keeps us on this earth so that we can act on that faith and bring people back to him. Personally, why would anyone want to be a Christian if it’s all about being straight-faced or weeping over your sins all the time? To bring people to Jesus, they have to see the joy and peace that he brings. Let it out. On the other hand, it’s not only about doing things. We do have to have an inward conviction that Jesus is our Savior. It is a combination of change inside and outside. Inside, we are convicted of our sins, and we are able to joyfully accept Jesus as the child born to us. Outside, we are no longer moping and grumbling, but in light of troubling times, there is this underlying current of joy that makes our reactions different than the rest of the world. You lost your job? God is sovereign, loves you, and provides for you. He gave his Son to you; he gave his Son to me.

However, I can honestly say that I don’t see my acceptance of Jesus as a Savior given to me in my life. Lately, my heart has been burdened. I feel pressure from many places and disappointment and trial all around. I am burdened when I neglect things and burdened in the decisions I make. Plus, I don’t know how to rest in the Lord. I know how to be lazy and slack off, but that is not the real rest that God knows that people need. Then, I am burdened because I am lazy. However, the most apparent example of my lack of accepting this child has to do with my fears. I found out a new one this past week. On Tuesday morning, Viola and I woke up to the sound of squeaking and scratching, we had mice in our apartment and it freaked me out. It’s such an irrational fear. I am very comfortable around dogs and cats, but mice, apparently, freak me out. It’s been a real burden this past week and I am very ashamed at my reaction. I am very ashamed because I profess myself to be a Christian. How can I call Jesus my Savior if I am afraid of a little mouse?

Thank God there is still hope for a hypocritical man like me. I need to repent of not giving these burdens to Jesus. He came to remove my yoke of slavery but I keep holding on to it. I should trust in him and his love for me. The Bible says, “The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) When I am afraid, I do not trust God and his love for me. I am not trusting that he gave his son to me. But when I accept the significance of the child born to me, I can understand God’s love for me and not be afraid because there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). God gave his Son; he will be with me through anything. When I accept the Son given to me, he breaks the yoke that burdens me and sets my heart free (4). Like the Bible says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

I would love to say that by accepting Jesus as your personal Savior, you won’t have any more burdens, but burdens and fears keep coming. But it is actually ok to carry burdens only if we, then, bring those burdens to Jesus through prayer and the study of his word because that is why he was sent on Christmas day. This is Christmas: that the burdened, gloomy, dark, distressed and oppressed have a light and freedom. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and this son is God who came to release people from the crushing weight of their sins. This child gives us a way to come back to paradise and live a life that we were meant to live, a life worshipping the Lord our God. Christmas should bring so much joy. Not because it is a time of giving gifts, but that God gave his son to you and to the whole world.

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