Behold, the Child
Topic: Biblical Verse: Isaiah 9:2–9:7
The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
December 24, 2021
“Behold, the Child”
A child changes everything. To become a parent, whether through birth or adoption, is to enter a whole new world. A common refrain of those who are new parents goes something like this: “What did I do with all my time before children came along?” Your time is not your own anymore. That little time-changer who has come into your life demands almost everything that you have to give. Sleepless nights as they conduct their sleep deprivation experiments on you. Endless clothing changes and piles of laundry. Free time – ha! What’s that? A whole new appearance as you take on that zombie-like tired mom or dad look. And yet, being a parent is one of God’s highest callings in life. Scripture doesn’t record any of these things about Mary and Joseph’s experience in becoming parents, and yet, they surely must have gone through all that parents go through in every generation, and with none of the modern conveniences that we rely on. “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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The promise of this Child which God gave through the prophet Isaiah has been gloriously fulfilled in the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem’s manger. On this Christmas Eve, “Behold, the Child.” That is the theme for this sermon. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
This Child that Isaiah prophesied some 750 years before the time of Jesus would be no ordinary child. This Child has some amazing titles that he’s been given: “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” “Prince of Peace.” Who calls their kids by names like these? But wait – there’s more! Isaiah goes on: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7). Wow! Those are awesome and far-reaching promises, far beyond anything any human parent could ever hope to accomplish. That’s something only God could do. Did Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ earthly parents, connect the dots here about their Son? In beholding their Child, did they behold the fulfillment of God’s promises? Did they understand all of this? We do have several clues in Luke chapter 2, after Jesus’ birth account, where we read: “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51b). Parents, especially moms, remember these kinds of things about their children, and Mary was no exception to the rule.
In beholding their Child, who came to fulfill all of God’s promises, Mary and Joseph quickly realized how much this tiny human life depended on them for everything. That is something every parent comes to realize. One of the blessings that I received over the Advent season, those days leading up to Christmas, was to read and digest the daily devotions in the booklet, Child of Promise, from Lutheran Hour Ministries. These devotions were incredibly insightful and enriching, and were written by Dr. Kari Vo. The devotion written for last Sunday, December 19, was especially poignant. Dr. Vo wrote: “… Jesus came into this world as a tiny baby – utterly dependent on His mother for milk, warmth, life itself. Dependent on Joseph for protection and provision. Dependent on the wider community for so many thing – the shelter He was born in, the roads His parents traveled, the safety He found in Egypt as a refugee Child. Jesus knows what it means to be dependent. We, too, know what it means to be dependent, because we are utterly and happily dependent on Jesus. He is our Savior, who died to make us children of God. He is our Lord, who rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Maybe, if we have learned to depend on Him directly, we can learn to depend on Him through His people as well…”
For students and teachers alike, Christmas comes during winter break when everyone enjoys a two-week time of R and R. Of course, no one really wants to think about school when you’re on break, but consider this: “The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons sees many cases per year of a particular preventable malady: backpack injury. The cumulative weight of electronic devices, sports equipment, and books means that children are carrying far too much for far too long. But there is more than physical weight your children carry. Adults, too, carry heavy loads – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. These existential burdens feel especially heavy during the holiday season. Isaiah’s prophecy says in part, ‘Authority rests upon his shoulders’ (Isaiah 9:6) and ‘The yoke of their burden… you have broken’ (Isaiah 9:4)” (Sundays and Seasons: Year C 2021-2022. Minneapolis: Augsburg-Fortress, 2021; p. 57). We all come here tonight bearing burdens of worry and anxiety, grief and stress. Are you tired of bearing that heavy burden that you’ve been carrying? Are you weary from shouldering that weight which bears down so heavy on you? Behold, the Child! This Child, born in Bethlehem’s manger, grew up and said these words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). This Jesus, born of Mary, invites us to turn our cares and burdens over to him so that he can bear them for us. This Jesus, announced by angels and worshiped by shepherds, would grow up to fulfill another word of prophecy from Isaiah: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4a, 5). Behold, the Child who would grow into a man who would be pierced by nails and carry the crushing burden of all our sins, giving his life for us upon the cross.
As we behold the Child born for us in the soft glow of candlelight here in the house of the Lord, let us also behold the Child who comes to us today in the face of the poor and needy, the hungry and homeless, the refugee and displaced person who, like Mary and Joseph, are also far from home. As God in Christ has loved us, let us then love one another, not in word and speech only, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). Let us love one another, not only at this blessed and holy time when we celebrate our Savior’s birth, but at all times and in all places. Since Christ’s love knows no boundaries, but includes all people, so let Christ’s love in us flow forth to all people. And so with our lips and with our lives, we live out this Child’s new commandment to love one another as we have been loved. From the angel to the shepherds on that first Christmas night, and from the shepherds down to each one of us today: “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11). Behold, the Child who is born for you. Amen.