For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I asked my three-year-old daughter the other day, “What did the angel say to Mary?” in the hope of turning her attention to the Advent season. She replied, “Don’t be afraid. You will have a baby.” I smiled affectionately in recognition of her answer and asked another question, “What did the angel say to the shepherds?” I continue to ponder what she said next, “Don’t be afraid. Go to the baby.” With all the fear that grips our world today—fear of sickness during these days of pandemic; fear of where the country is headed politically, socially, and morally; fear for the economy; fear for the well-being of children and grandchildren; fear of loneliness; fear of failure; fear of growing old and being forgotten—these words strike like a match in the dark, flickering the warm glow of hope. “For to us a child is born . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6).
At a point in Israel’s history when the state of fear was such that the “people shook as the trees of the forest before the wind,” Isaiah proclaimed, “Do not fear” (Isaiah 7:2-4, 8:12). The prophet saw through the severe threats surrounding the nation to the reality of God’s redemptive work in history and declared that a child would come who would be called Wonderful Counselor. This was not merely a therapeutic “It’s going to be okay.” Isaiah spoke of a historical fact-in-the-flesh who would set all things right in a world corrupted by sin and death.
After hundreds of years of devastation and longing for the people of Israel, a young woman named Mary gave birth to a little boy in a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Swaddled and resting in a feeding trough lay the child Isaiah spoke of: Wonderful Counselor, God with us, Jesus. I do not know any more about what it was like on the first Christmas than the few details the Bible tells us, but I have known the overwhelming love that casts out fear, even for just a moment, at the sight of a newborn child.
The arrival of a baby is one of the most joyful and fearful experiences of life. All the long months of pregnancy swell to a tsunami of anticipation with hope and fear at its crest. The strenuous labor; waiting in what feels like timelessness; the first sight of head, eyes, and ears; tiny fingers clenched atop flailing arms; small legs and feet; holding your breath even as you shout on the inside, “Cry! Please, baby, cry!” —the wave crashes to shore in overwhelming joy, and tears flow like a river at the quivering shrill of lungs set free. “Hi, baby. Mommy loves you. Daddy loves you.” It is but a small, momentary glimpse of the wonders of Jesus, the baby in the manger who became the Savior of the world.
Jesus proclaimed the good news of God’s loving rule of the world. He healed the sick and set the oppressed free. He was ultimately rejected, betrayed, and killed as just another tragic warning of what happens to those who mess with the powers that be. Yet, the Advent of the cradle and the cross proclaims, “Don’t be afraid” through the coronation of the King. Jesus’s bodily resurrection was the decisive victory over death, and we are called to follow Him in faith as we wait for the second coming of our King. In that Advent, the wonders of God’s counsel will make the world over in peace, justice, and righteousness as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Even so, come, Lord Jesus!