The Wonder of Christmas
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given... And he will be called Wonderful Counselor...Isaiah 9:6
Seven centuries before the event, God revealed to his people that a child would be born to them, who would be a gift to the world, and would be a wonderful counsellor. We celebrate the coming of that child into the world every Christmas.
He is not someone who counsels wonderful advice. Rather "wonderful" means supernatural, or out of the ordinary, or mysterious; it is something we could not have thought of ourselves. Paul writes of the "mystery of Christ" in Ephesians 3:4, meaning the Gospel as brought and revealed in the Person of Christ, and as made effective by him, which is the same as Wonderful Counsellor means in the verse from Isaiah that was prophesied so long before his coming.
This child that God was going to give to the world would grow to be no ordinary man, nor would his counsel, or plan, for the world be ordinary. He would have solutions to the world's problems no one would have thought of in their farthest thoughts, or dared to have imagined possible in their wildest dreams. Everything about Christ was wonderful in this sense, not the least his birth.
Who would have guessed that God himself would become a man, and grace our planet with his presence, or grace our humanity with his divinity? Could it ever be possible — "the infinite contracted to a span"? God had promised a decisive breaking into the earth's history, when his kingdom would be established on earth, but nobody expected him to come as a man to do it. Yet this is precisely what he did. It is too much for some to believe, and who could believe it if God himself had not said that it was so?
God sent his only Son into the world, not as a prince or a man of importance in religious circles, but as a humble carpenter in an out of the way place. Nor did he come fully grown into the world, but he was born of a woman, and knew all the weakness and vulnerability of being a baby, then a toddler and a boy. Who but our God would have planned this?
The wonder goes deeper. He was born of a virgin. In an age when we think we know how cells reproduce, and terms like DNA and Molecular Genetics float around in our consciousness, we may have lost the sense of the wonder of this, but it was a supernatural birth, and the only way in which God could accomplish the birth of his son into the world. He had no earthly father, for God himself was the Father of Christ.
Wonder filled the air the whole of the nine months of his mother's pregnancy. Prophecy and holy joy marked those days, and angels visited his family. Finally when the day came for him to be born, the angels crowded the skies, singing like they hadn't done since the creation of the world; and why shouldn't they? God was doing a wonderful thing.
Those with eyes to see caught the sense of it, and rejoiced in the birth of the child. The shepherds glorified and praised God for everything they had heard and seen. Mary treasured up every word and sight and sound in her heart. Simeon and Anna praised God to be able to have seen the promised child. The Magi followed the star from the East and worshipped; and Joseph met an angel and led the child and his mother to safety, and back home again.
God's great purpose does not stop at Christ's birth, for there was a reason for him coming into the world that was wonderful. Christ's death had a purpose that no-one could have guessed had it not been revealed by God himself. In the event, it had no purpose to human eyes, just the waste of a good life, ending in a cruel tragedy. The ugliness of his death contrasts starkly with the beauty and joy of his birth. The soldiers' curses and brutality, the vitriolic mockery of the religious establishment, the abandonment by loved ones, and his utter rejection by God are all opposites of the love and tender care lavished on him at his birth.
This tragedy to human eyes was a wonder of counsel of God. "For God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" – on the cross. The Son of God redeems his people and brings the Kingdom of God to earth by dying on a cross. This gospel of Christ's redeeming love is wonderful. Who would have thought it? Sinners are raised from death in their sins and trespasses, endowed with eternal life, given the Spirit of God and made children of God, all through a death on a cross. We would not have planned it that way, for our counsel is not that of God. Our thoughts are not His thoughts, nor are His thoughts our thoughts.
The counsel of God that started in God's plan before the world began, was made visible at the birth of Christ and sealed at his death, will be made glorious at his awing again. Wonder has not gone from this world, but is biding God's time when it will be revealed in its fullness, when Christ will come from heaven with the clouds of glory and will rule the new heavens and new earth. What that will be like none can guess, for God has not chosen to reveal his plan in detail for then.
Christmas reminds us of one aspect of God's counsel of wonder in sending his Son into the world. It is a time to reflect on the wonderful counsel of God in sending his Only Begotten into the world. It is a time to renew our worship of God, and to renew our love of Christ. Let us worship the God we can never fully understand, but who has revealed himself to us.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.