For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. [Lyrics, Handel’s Messiah, For Unto Us a Child is Born, Isaiah 9:5]
Music, lights, sights, sounds and aromas are all significant prompts that say Christmas to me. For as long as I can remember, Handel’s Messiah has been my favorite musical experience to the extent that it just doesn’t seem like Christmas if I don’t get to hear it several times throughout the season. My dad particularly liked For Unto to Us a Child is Born, and hearing this particular choral selection still today makes him present in very real and comforting ways.
Thinking about the ways my senses are heightened and the ways I am comforted by the miracle of Christmas sent me to reread the context of the highlighted words set to music by Handel. In that context is, for me, the key to why the awe and wonder of celebrating the birth of Jesus is so profoundly connected to the very depths of my being.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:2-7 NRSV)
These words speak so passionately to me about the deep and broad love God has for each of us. How blessed are we to be embraced by a God whose love is so amazing that our God became one of us (became Incarnate, became flesh) to live among us and show us the way of salvation; to lift our burdens; to increase our joy. How blessed are we to be embraced by such a loving God whose love embraces all that we are and loves us even when we misuse, abuse or otherwise push away the gift of love offered freely to each of us; a love that offers godly justice and true peace. How blessed are we that our loving God surrounds us with the light that breaks us free from the darkness of a world that has yet to fully embrace the loving, liberating and life-giving gift of the Word made flesh; a love that is full of passion and enthusiasm for us! And our action is to be open to this grand offering of love.
At this Christmas season and beyond, let your response to this loving God’s embrace be yes, so be it, Amen!
I wish you and your families the blessings of Christmas and a holy New Year!