“And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6b)
Advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. We can speak of the advent of a president, the advent of the internet or any number of events. In the Christian tradition, we celebrate the coming, or second coming, of Jesus Christ during the Advent season, which begins four Sundays before Christmas. This year, the first Sunday of Advent is November 28th.
For centuries, Christians have quoted prophetic passages from the Old Testament, believing those passages to speak of Jesus as the Messiah or the Christ. Messiah (from the Hebrew) and Christ (from the Greek) both mean the same thing: anointed one. The Messiah, or Christ, is the anointed one of God, set apart as holy for the salvation of humankind.
We read these prophetic passages every year during Advent, especially verses from Isaiah. One such verse is well known to us: “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, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (9:6) And, of course, we hear these words sung in the oratorio by George Frederic Handel, markedly named “The Messiah.”
This year we’ll be keying off Walter Brueggemann’s Advent devotional study: Names for the Messiah. This short book can help us focus on the coming of the Messiah to the ancient world and the coming of the Messiah into our own lives, as well. We often laugh at Jesus’ disciples, because it seems like they just didn’t “get it.” They were so close to Jesus, but they wanted Him to be something He was not. But before we write the disciples off for being so ignorant, we should remember that the most educated religious minds of the ancient world missed the Messiah standing right in front of them.
The fact that the smartest and the closest to Jesus had misconceptions about the Messiah should cause us to pause. We, of course, have the luxury of 20/20 vision, looking back to the Old Testament through the hermeneutical lens of the New Testament. But the questions remain: Do we get it? Do we see the Messiah in our presence?
The religious leaders of His day had expectations of who the Messiah would be and so they rejected the true Messiah. The disciples had their own expectations of who the Messiah would be, which caused them to abandon the true Messiah. Do we worship the Messiah who was and is and who is to come? Or do we worship a Messiah over our own fancy, a fantasy of our own making? Something made up in our own minds based on our own expectations of who we think the Messiah should be?
This Advent season let us join together, as we come to worship the newborn King. And may we learn together, as we journey to Bethlehem, to see Jesus as the true Messiah. May we be transformed this holy season. And may our unrealistic expectations and our own constructions be broken down, so that we might worship the true Messiah as King of kings, Lord of lords. May we worship Jesus as Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
I’m looking forward to spending Advent with you all!
I remain yours in Christ’s Love and Service,