ADVENT 1: WONDERFUL COUNSELOR
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.”
From time to time we all find ourselves in need of a counselor.Sometimes the counselor’s task is to console usus in our times of grief. Other times it is to serve as a council to us when it is an outside voice of direction and guidance that we require. Sometimes we experience a counselor in the professional, clinical form that the word has become synonymous with. Many times we experience it simply in the informal and maybe even unexpected form of a friend across a coffee shop table or apparent on the other end of a phone line.
And what makes a good counselor?
A good counselor is one who is approachable and knows when to listen and when to speak. They are people with the soft touch of love and compassion wrapped around the firm core of wisdom and accountability. A good counselor possesses the skills needed to direct a conversation and can demonstrate empathy for the person sitting across from them. All these skills make a good counselor.
But what makes a wonderful counselor?
A wonderful counselor – the very best kind of counselor – is one who has walked through what we are facing and has come through again on the other side. A wonderful counselor doesn’t just demonstrate empathy – the ability to imagine what it is like to stand in your shoes and to suggest how you might keep standing through whatever it is you are facing. Instead, a wonderful counselor knows first hand what you are going through feels like because they themselves have experienced it and know what it is that got them through to the other side. It is common experience that makes a wonderful counselor.
When Isaiah looked ahead to this One who was to come, he didn’t look ahead to a good counselor but a wonderful one.
And what makes Jesus a wonderful counselor?
Among everything else about who he is, Jesus is one who doesn’t have to imagine whatever it is that you are going through. Instead he is someone who knows first hand what it is like having been, in the words of Hebrews, “tempted in every way” and able “to sympathize with us in our weakness.” Whatever it is that we are experiencing, we find in Jesus someone who has experienced it as well. So is it hunger or poverty or the brevity and fragility of life? Is it rejection or abandonment by those he loved? Is it being mistreated or misunderstood? Is it the experience of loneliness or of not being listened to or even abandoned by God? Jesus experienced all this firsthand even crying out to God in anguish that this cup of suffering he was about to drink from might be taken from him only to be met by the silence of God when he was told no. We can turn to Jesus in our times of need not because he might be able to understand what we are facing and point us in a way that will get us through. We can turn, instead, because he has experienced it and come through on the other side. This makes him able to be our wonderful and very best sort of counselor indeed.