His Name Shall be Called (#2 in the Series)
Some of us are “hard of hearing” - and we misunderstand others because we can’t hear as well as we used to.
Like the patient who misunderstood his doctor; he was surprised to learn he needed “Cadillac surgery”. Turns out it was cataract surgery. He also needed a hearing aid!
Or when the husband commented to his wife, “the Dow’s up 80!” - and she though he asked, “how’s the baby?”
We sometimes, misunderstand.
Other times, it’s not-so-much that we misunderstand because we can’t hear well... as it is we don’t have the framework to understand. We lack experience, or vocabulary, or perspective.
Like when I was a child, and truly, honestly believed the words of the Doxology, that we sang ever single week at church... were, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow... Praise him for our cereal!” I loved cereal... still do.
Or the student who told her parents she’d learned about “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear” in Sunday school. The little girl had misinterpreted the teacher saying, “Gladly, the cross I bare.”
Or the child who recited his version of the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."
And the little boy who began the Lord’s prayer by praying, "Our Father who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name."
Sometimes we misinterpret... we “hear” things from our own perspective.
For Isaiah there was no misunderstanding or misinterpretation: “His name shall be called... Mighty God!”
This child, this Son given to us... this Messiah... shall be called Mighty God.
Think about that...
There are times in our lives when our circumstances are just too big, too frightening... too overwhelming to face. And, for me, it’s the Mightiness of God that calms my anxiety and eases my fear.
God’s power... His strength and authority... means that you and I can rest in Him... as turn our worries, and fears and uncertainties over to our Mighty God, who is big enough to handle anything we give him.
Even when we don’t understand why something is happening, we can rest assured that God is ultimately in control...
Especially when life doesn’t make sense, I need a Mighty God who is bigger than even the most difficult circumstances I face...
Isaiah is trying to tell us this is not a normal son, a normal child. This child... is God in the flesh. This is the astounding miracle of Christmas.
It’s easy to argue that THIS is the most amazing miracle in all of the Bible. Greater than turning water in to wine... greater than calming of the wind and waves, or turning a few loaves of bread and fish into enough food to feed thousands... even greater than the resurrection from the dead. Because none of those things would have ever happened, if Jesus had not been born the Mighty God.
This Child who is born to us... that we celebrate during Advent and Christmas - this infant holy, infant lowly... this Sweet Little Jesus Boy... this child in a manger... wrapped in swaddling clothes - is the Mighty God who has come to save us. The very same Jesus who identifies with us and relates to us, in every way, yet without sin, and has saved us through His finished work in the cross and resurrection... He is the Mighty God.
Of course, He can heal the sick, make the deaf hear, the blind see... and cause the dead to live again. BECAUSE he’s our Mighty God.
But again... the most consequential miracle (and amazing claim), really in all the Bible, is that Jesus, God in the Flesh, is the Mighty God.
That the child, lying in a cattle trough, that we celebrate at Christmas time, is God in the flesh who has come to save us.
And when you realize the wonder, the beauty of this… and I say realize, because the more you think about it, the more baffling it is... you NEVER really understand it... it just kinda dawns on you (and you learn to accept it by faith). God in the flesh - just like you and me!
But, then... that’s the beauty of the Bible, of the Gospels... because this is the only way we can be saved from our sins, saved from ourselves. The One who can fully identify with us, fully tempted by sin, yet perfect over it... is also the One who can fully identify with God, who can bear the divine justice and judgment - that’s rightfully ours.
The beauty of the Bible, of the Gospel, is that Jesus is both fully man and fully God. He is the Son, the child born, who is the Mighty God.
But there will be plenty of homes decorated with twinkling lights, and Christmas trees... loads of presents and cheer... where Jesus is never mentioned - the true Christmas story is replaced by “Rudolph” and “Frosty” and a Jolly Ole’ Elf.
In fact, the majority of people won’t give notice, or remembrance to Jesus this Christmas - not unlike the very first one, so long ago.
I say that because you and I know the birth of Christ is a core truth... it’s the core of Christmas, at the core of the Gospels - it’s essential to our faith... But... it’s denied by billions of people in this world. I think about Muslims in particular, who believe there’s no way God would stoop so low as to become one of us.
1.6 billion of them, no known followers of Christ. The reality is, even if they know about Jesus at all... they’ve been taught that He was just a prophet. He’s just a man. There’s no way He’s the Mighty God.
But before we get too high and mighty and claim it all about “them” (the Muslims & Buddhist & Hindus of the world) - the untold multitudes who just don’t know the right things about Jesus: let’s be honest, and confess... that many of us are confused, too. We’ve have wonderful people, good people... people we’ve known for years-and-years... who (not very long ago) stood right here in our church (Presbyterians) who could not OR would not say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that NO one comes to the Father except through him. They said Jesus is our way to God... but maybe not everyone’s way.
In other words, they believe the exact opposite of what Isaiah 9:6 teaches... what the Bible teaches... what we know as key - as foundational to our faith... that Jesus is in fact the Mighty God.
Maybe it’s a matter of misunderstanding - or misinterpretation. I don’t know... but I do know:
Our response: we should pray to and live for our Mighty God... for Jesus... asking God to reveal the truth to those who are blind... so they may come to know the Christ, as the Mighty God, too...
Instead of condemning those who haven’t yet realized the true nature of God in Christ... we should love them! We should live as Christ calls us to live... loving the unlovable... going the extra mile... turning the other cheek... and forgiving until we lose count! All the while praying that others will see the Mighty God living in, and through, and in-spite, of us. Because it’s only when we take Jesus seriously... and seriously live our lives for Christ... that others begin to accept our faith is real.
Pray with me: “God open eyes, we pray, to your supremacy, and your grace, and your mercy in Jesus. God, we pray especially here during Advent and Christmas for those who do not know our Lord as Mighty God. We pray that you would use us as witnesses to help others see the glorious Good News that Jesus is God in the flesh come to save us... if we but believe.
And may it be that many, many people, in and through our lives, our families, our church, would be brought to know Jesus as God this Advent/Christmas season.
All for the glory of Jesus, the Mighty God, we pray. Amen.”