The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to 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.
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.
Upon the shoulder of the infant Jesus, dominion rests. Isaiah later declares, “your name and your memory are the desire of our souls” (26:8). And indeed His names and titles are wondrous: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. How far such glory seems from an impoverished birth in a Bethlehem cave. The newborn, sovereign king who is destined to rule all the nations in glory is surrounded by animals and laid in a wooden manger. Even more stark is the contrast of the full-grown Jesus dying on the cross, crowned by thorns, and abandoned by his apostles.
And yet the road to glory is the way of the cross. Jesus conquered sin and suffering and death only by accepting them out of love for us. That way of the cross is foreshadowed in the wooden manger of Bethlehem. But by His dying He destroyed our death and by His rising He restored our life. That is the real hope and treasure and glory of Christmas.
Several years ago a cousin of mine, only a few years older than myself, died suddenly from a long-standing medical issue and was buried just three days before Christmas. A very natural instinct would be to think that Christmas was ruined. But in a brief moment of inspiration, I thought, “Thank God it’s Christmas. Thank God that death is not the end of all things.” If we really think about it, for Christians it is the knowledge of the resurrection that has always been at the heart of Christmas hope.
Mild He lays His glory,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing:
“Glory to the newborn king!”
Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., is chaplain of the Saint Benedict Institute, serving Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.