In this season of hope we call Advent, we will prepare ourselves for Christmas by reflecting each week on the words of the Prophet Isaiah,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”Isaiah 9:6
There are few moments in life as hope-giving as the birth of a child. For nine long months we waitas bodies swell and first heart beats and kicks and turns are felt. We treat each change and movement as a sign to be read and interpreted. “Look!” we say, “She knows your voice and loves it when you talk.” And, “Did you feel that? This one is going to be a runner… or a boxer.” And even, “He doesn’t want to move or come out yet. He must be stubborn like his father.”
And then the moment comes when child is born. If you have had the privilege of that experience, it is one you never forget. You look down and see this beautiful,peaceful, perfect child. In that moment you can’t help but be hopeful. Hopeful for who this child will be. For what they will do. For what they will see and experience. For what you might see and experience together with them. In terms of hope-filled moments few can compete with the birth of a child.
Sadly, that hope-filled moment doesn’t last forever.
Sleepless nights and teething pain. Health concerns. The turbulence of the teenage years. The uncertain starts and stops of setting out on their own. Quickly we are reminded of how fragile this hope is too. It is not that these moments drive away our sense of hope for this child we love so much as it tempers it with the recognition of just how little control either of us have to bring about this hoped for future. The desire is there but the power simply isn’t.
Perhaps it was a moment like this that Isaiah penned the words, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.” Perhaps it was the announcement that the Queen had just given birth to a child – a son and heir to the throne – that first inspired him to write. Perhaps it was the hope that comes with a new birth – the hope that this prince’s rule might be different than the corrupt and evil rule of his father, Ahaz. Perhaps this is where he begins.
But it is not where he stays never mind where he ends.
Instead of ending with his hopes for this child and what his reign might be like, he looks further ahead. He looks ahead to one who is not just another child like any other – that is, one who may rule with wisdom and power and love and peace only for as long as they are able. Instead, he looks ahead to one who will be called a child and yet “Mighty God.” He looks ahead to Jesus who would come and rule with the wisdom and power and love and peace of God himself. He looked ahead to this one who incredibly, impossibly, and inconceivably would be God himself living and present among us. One whose power and reign is not tempered by the frailties and limitations all other children experience. One whose desire for us and our future is there but so also is the power to bring it about. For ultimately our hope is not just in another child like us who will repeat the cycle of what has already been. Our hope is in the child unlike any other. Our hope is in God himself who, coming as a child, has the power to write a new story in us altogether.
- Joe Welty