Today’s readings from Luke 2:1-40 and Isaiah 9:6-7 both speak of a child being born. But how could a child born in a Jewish town be the one who would have the government “on his shoulders” – the one foreseen by Isaiah hundreds of years earlier?
Isaiah 9:7 points to it being The Lord’s power, and not mere human means, that would establish the kingdom of the Prince of Peace – “the zeal of The Lord Almighty will accomplish this”. From innocuous beginnings, Luke 2 progresses to reveal -through the marvelling of the witnesses to the newborn Jesus – that The Lord has indeed entered into human history as a man to inaugurate that kingdom.
It is obvious from the beginning of Luke 2 that this story is unlikely – in human terms. The Roman Empire in all its power was requiring a census of all its subjects – even as far as Palestine. The throne of David was long gone, and Joseph as a far-off descendant of David was required to register with the all-conquering Roman government. While Isaiah wrote of a future King reigning on David’s throne forever, surely a newborn boy lying in a manger could not be this king?
The rest of Luke 2 shows this to be exactly God’s plan, and not within man’s wildest dreams. The proclamation of the angels to the shepherds is startling. They act in wonder and proceed hastily to see this great king. No doubt they marvelled at what they saw, as they reported it widely and this was the result (vv. 18-20):
… and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
In the Spirit, Simeon and Anna both marvel as well and foretell Jesus’ salvation of both Israelites and Gentiles alike. All who were involved in these events were clearly moved deeply to look at God’s good plans in a new way. We do not know what followed for the people who had marvelled at what they heard from the shepherds. However, we do know that God was glorified and praised by those who came into direct contact with Jesus.
Hopefully as we read these words today, we will marvel once more at God’s great goodness to us. These often are passages with which many Christians are familiar, but looking into them intently to prepare this reflection has helped me remember once more that Jesus’ coming to be our Immanuel – God with us – is absolutely worth marvelling at. There is nothing more marvellous than the boy in the manger who from conception was miraculous, and by his actions revealed himself to not only be a man but God dwelling with us.
2013 is a year where my wife and I have been blessed with our firstborn son. Thinking about this today took me back to thinking what a miracle God’s creation of even just one human life is. How much more marvellous the eternally begotten Son – of one being with the Father, who Isaiah calls the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace“.
May we marvel at Immanuel this day as we celebrate Christmas.