“For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given;
and the government will be upon His shoulder.”
Paul Gerhardt asks the question:
If our blessed Lord and maker hated men,
Would He then be of ﬂesh partaker?
If He in our Woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?
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 descendants 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.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
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. This evening, let us take to heart speciﬁcally the ﬁrst half of this verse and consider two things about this Savior: ﬁrst, his incarnation; second, his government.
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. 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 truth.
The incarnation is a wonderful mystery. Listen to how St. Paul describes it in 1 Timothy 3: 16.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the ﬂesh, justiﬁed in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.
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.
He whom the world cannot enclose
In Mary’s bosom doth repose;
To be a little Child He deigns
Who all things by Himself sustains. Alleluia.
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:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afﬂicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
His rule over us will never end. Here in space and time God gave and fulﬁlled his promise to deliver us and our children from the sin we had done. The government he established by his holy birth, obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection will last forever. Gabriel spoke God’s word to Mary, saying:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
We confess, “Whose kingdom shall have no end.” What is ours now by faith will be revealed in all its fullness on the day that Jesus returns in all his glory. The joy of Christmas that is now marred by our own sins, failures, disappointments, fears, and troubles, will be transformed into pure, deep, and abiding joy that no one will take from us. Christ will rule over us in love forever. The government that is upon his shoulders will free us forever from every burden we bear. Amen