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The Miracle of Christmas

By Editorial Staff
Published April 22, 2008

God’s Gift to Us – His Son

by John F. MacArthur, Jr.

The Christmas story in the Bible begins earlier than you might expect – several hundred years earlier. One Old Testament prophecy after another promised a coming Savior – the Messiah, the Anointed One – who would redeem* the people of God.

The centerpiece of all the Christmas prophecies, Isaiah 9:6, was written by Isaiah nearly six hundred years before Jesus’ birth. Writing under divine inspiration, Isaiah was able to see across the centuries and give us an amazingly accurate picture of the Savior’s birth. He promised it would be a miraculous event, unlike any the world had ever known. The details Isaiah gave were fulfilled too precisely for the connection to be dismissed as chance.

Isaiah foretold, for example, that Jesus would be born to a virgin – a woman who had never been sexually intimate with any man. [That] was one of the most startling details of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah 7:14 says, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” That virgin’s name was Mary.

The name Immanuel, however, is the key to this verse – and the heart of the Christmas story. It is a Hebrew name that means literally, “God with us.” It is a promise of incarnate* deity, a prophecy that God Himself would appear as a human infant, Immanuel, “God with us.” This baby who was to be born would be God Himself in human form.

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!

The Promise of a King

To the Jewish nation, Isaiah’s prophecy was news of a coming King. The child who would be born, Isaiah said, would shoulder the government (Isaiah 9:6). To the unsuspecting world, the prophecy promised a Savior, God incarnate, whose coming would dramatically and forever alter human history.

Isaiah 9:6 is surely the most familiar of all the Old Testament prophecies about the birth of Christ. Handel included it as one of the great choruses of his Messiah oratorio. Chances are you hear it several times every Christmas season.

Consider the rich truth in this one short verse. Observe, for example, the unusual names given to this extraordinary Son: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Those are remarkable titles for a baby, aren’t they? This was no ordinary child, but one whose coming had been long awaited. Three phrases at the beginning of the verse hint at who He really is.

Son of man. “A child will be born unto us” is a statement about His humanity. He began life like any other human – as an infant. Isaiah doesn’t say any more here, but we know from the New Testament that throughout His life Christ experienced every temptation common to humanity, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). Ultimately He would die as all men die, yet not for any sin of His own but bearing all humanity’s sin and guilt. As a man, He felt everything we feel, hurt like we hurt, wept like we weep, and in His death, He even felt the weight of sin.

Son of God. Notice the second phrase, “a son will be given to us.” Not “born”; “given.” The terminology speaks of the Savior’s preexistent deity. Again, we know the full truth of what Isaiah only suggests: that He existed before His birth. Already God, the second Person of the Trinity, He was given to us to be our Savior. “Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant …being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 NAS). He came as the Son of God – God in a human body – to conquer sin and death forever. He is the perfect Son of God, the promise of the ages, the Holy One of Israel, the desire of nations, the light in darkness, the only hope for our lost world.

King of kings. “The government will rest on His shoulders” looks beyond that first Christmas to a time still in the prophetic future when Christ shall reign over a literal, earthly, geopolitical kingdom that encompasses all the kingdoms and governments of the world (see Zechariah 14:9; Daniel 2:44). In that day, the government of the whole world will rest on His shoulders, and He will reign as sovereign over a worldwide kingdom of righteousness and peace.

In the meantime, His government operates in secret. His kingdom and sovereign rule are manifest within those who trust Him and obey Him as their Lord. Although the King is not presently reigning in visible form, He rules in the hearts of His people (see Luke 17:20-21). That rule, like the future worldwide kingdom, is marked by righteousness and peace …

Think of it: His shoulders are broad enough for the government of an eternal kingdom. And still His compassion is such that He offers His peace and His kingdom to people like you and me, though we have rebelled against His righteousness. He is eternally sovereign, yet He chose to become a baby, so that He might live in our world – as Immanuel, God with us.

Unto us a child is born. Who is “us”? Everyone? No. In context, Isaiah is speaking of those who believe – who rejoice in God (Isaiah 9:3). There is no Savior, no hope, no peace, no eternal life, no mighty power, and no wise counsel for those who do not know Jesus Christ.

But those who embrace Him by faith are ushered into His kingdom. Their lives are transformed by His power. He becomes their Counselor. And it keeps getting better and better!

May the government of your life be on His shoulders.

*Redeem: To rescue them from their hopeless condition by sacrificing His own life. Incarnate: God becoming man and dwelling in a human body.

From the book The Miracle of Christmas, by John F. MacArthur, Jr. Copyright ©1993 by John F. MacArthur, Jr. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. John F. MacArthur, Jr. is noted for his in depth expository approach to the Bible. He is a popular speaker and the author of numerous best-selling books.


Key Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled at Christmas

Numbers 24:17; Matthew 2:1-2
A star and a scepter came out of Israel.

Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25
Messiah was born of a virgin and called
“Immanuel,” meaning “God with us”
(Jesus Christ was God in human form).

Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6, Luke 2:1-7
He was born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 11:1-3; Matthew 1:1-17; 3:16
Messiah descended from Jesse (David’s father),
and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon Him.

Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 7:40
The Lord raised up a great Prophet.

The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them …
For a child will be born to us,
a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of
His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with
justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.

- Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 NAS


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