Christmas Service Sermon, 2003
“For unto us a Child is
born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His
shoulder.” Isaiah 9:6a
Paul Gerhardt asks the question:
blessed Lord and maker hated men,
Of course not!
If Christmas means anything, it means that God loves us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten
Son.” He did not send His
Son into the world because He hated us.
God the Son did not become a man and join Himself to our human
flesh and blood in order to destroy us.
He did so in order to do for us what we, in our own flesh and
blood, could not do. God
delights in what He does. And
there is no greater thing God has ever done than to redeem Adam and Eve
and all their descendents from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
While the entire Old Testament
bears witness to Christ, there are certain messianic mountaintops that
rise above the rest of the Scriptures and demand our attention.
One such mountaintop is the words recorded for us in Isaiah 9:6.
These words are and ought to be
familiar to us all. An
entire sermon could be preached on each of the names assigned to the
promised Savior. Today, let
us take to heart specifically the first half of this verse and consider
two things about this Savior: first, His incarnation; second, His
I will not avoid big words when
they are words every Christian should know. Every Christian should be familiar with the word incarnation.
Carnal means fleshly. Usually
that’s a bad thing. The
Bible uses the word flesh to refer to our sinful nature.
And so the word carnal is often used to mean sinful.
But what would happen if the holy God became flesh?
He certainly would not become sinful.
The incarnation is when the holy God – specifically God the Son
– became flesh. The holy
God became flesh so that sinful flesh could become holy.
God became a human being. Isaiah
teaches this wonderful truth by making two declarations.
Unto us a Child is born. Unto
us a Son is given. The
Child and the Son are the same person.
The Child is the Child of Mary.
The Son is the Son of God. The
Son of God is the Child of Mary. God
has joined us. He has become one of us.
The incarnation of the Son of God is what we Christians confess
in the Nicene Creed when we say, “who for us men and for our salvation
was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.”
He was incarnate. He became flesh. Unto
us a Child is born. But He
is more than the Child of Mary. Unto
us a Son is given. The
Child of Mary is the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and
The incarnation is a wonderful
mystery. Listen to how St.
Paul describes it in 1 Timothy 3:16.
It is a mystery because it goes
beyond our ability to understand. We
can know that Jesus is the eternal God because God tells us so.
We can know that Jesus is the Child of Mary because God tells us
so. Therefore, the little
baby Jesus is the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God over all.
Yet He became a little baby dependent upon His mother.
As we sing:
the world cannot enclose
Unto us a Child is born.
Unto us a Son is given. God
promised it. God kept his promise. God
cannot make a promise and break it.
We break promises because we make promises we cannot keep.
We break promises because we make promises we don’t want to
keep. We break promises
because we are sinful people. We
lie. We break our word.
We say we will and then we will not.
We promise and we fail to deliver.
God is not like this.
When God promises something, He obligates Himself to do it.
He is not capable of deceit.
When we say that God is almighty, we don’t mean that God can
deny Himself or commit a sin. He
cannot. He cannot promise
us something only to let us down.
Unto us a Child is born.
Unto us a Son is given. And
the government will be upon His shoulder.
The government will be upon His shoulder, not upon our shoulders.
He does not govern us like any other government governs.
Governments instituted among men place the burden for their
government upon us and upon our children.
We give them our money in taxes.
We give them our sons for soldiers.
They take our money and they take our sons and they regulate our
lives and if they are particularly honorable perhaps they will keep us
free but it is more likely that they will be less than honorable because
that is human nature. The
governed bear the burden of the government.
The government presses them down as the rulers demand more and
more and more from those they rule.
But not this Child!
Not this Son! The government rests firmly on His shoulders.
He bears the burden we could not bear.
He doesn’t tax us. Instead, He lavishes upon us the treasures of heaven.
He doesn’t send our boys off to fight and die, but He Himself
fights and dies for us all. He does not place the burden of His government upon us.
The burden of His government is His alone.
And He bears it alone. As
the prophet said:
And His rule over us will never
end. Here in space and time
God gave, repeated, and fulfilled His promise to deliver us and our
children from the sin we had done.
The fulfillment of God’s promises to us in His Son and Mary’s
Child will continue forever and ever.
The children who stand before us, reciting the promises of
God’s holy word, singing hymns of praise to God, and confessing the
faith into which they were baptized are the gift that we can take to
heaven with us. We can take
no other gift given in this world to heaven with us. Our children belong to Him who governs them by His grace.
This is why we will not only bring them here for celebrations
such as these, but we will keep on giving to them the words of the
incarnate God whose gracious government will preserve them steadfast in
the truth faith and give them eternal life.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus