This is the last week of advent, Christmas Day is only a week away!
Listen to the hymn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f7jhk-IjDo This is a good bit faster than many time I’ve sung this, but I quite like it! Also there aren’t too many voices. Often the Messiah is sung by huge choruses and it was good to hear it as part of a smaller ensemble. There are so many versions out there that even if this isn’t your style I’m sure you’ll find one you like!
Read the lyrics:
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 Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
I was in two minds about what to pick this week. I was stuck between Handel’s Messiah For Unto Us a Child is Born and O Holy Night. Then I felt that people are less likely to listen to the Messiah in the run up to Christmas. Perhaps in more than the literal way I meant at first!
The words are just taken straight from Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’s coming in Isaiah 9 v 6. To us a child is born, to us a son is given. As a parent the knowledge that a child has been born or given to you is incredible, the weight of responsibility that this baby is YOURS. Yours to care for, yours to treat with respect and love. And so this is how God chose to send Jesus. He is born to us.
He is also given to us. A gift given, freely. All we need to do is accept the gift. I’m not a gifts person. I really don’t care if I didn’t get anything this Christmas. In fact my husband and I only gave each other Christmas presents our first year together, every year since we’ve not bothered. Maybe you’re the same and it’s hard to appear grateful for gifts you didn’t ask for or want. Let’s not miss the wonder of this gift. The gift that we didn’t ask for but that we need so much.
And the sentence we might be tempted to skip over, the government will be on His shoulders. As a child in the midst of a crowd of people, towering over you, the most comforting place to be was carried on your father’s shoulders. Him taking your weight and bearing the responsibility of guiding you through the crowd. Or giving you rest when your legs were weary. And this is exactly the kind of King Jesus is. He takes the weight and responsibility upon Himself. In these days here in our country we see politicians unwilling to take responsibility for poor decisions made on their watch. Trying to step back and let us, the citizens, take the hit instead of being accountable. And yet here Jesus, King of all, carries us and lets us rest on His shoulders. What leadership and kingship!
There is an amazing Luther sermon on this passage that talks about how Christians can feel the need to carry the weight of Jesus on their shoulders, they carry Him with their works and their merits. But he will prove too heavy for them. The sheep must say [instead], “Dear Shepherd, you carry me, not I you!” It would be some crazy sheep that wanted to carry him! Would it ever get something to carry! But Christ says, “Hop on! I will carry you well—and all your sins are forgiven.” And the world persecutes this treasure of the kingdom [of Christ]! Isaiah says, “You have the Son.” So, hop on! We should gladly and confidently run to him, believing that he will answer for us and pay for us.
What words! Let’s enter this last week of Christmas looking to Him who is given freely to us, and will carry us on His shoulders. Let’s not feel the need to gain Him on our own ability. We never will manage that. And we don’t need to. To us a son is given. Happy Christmas!
Credit for the translation of Luther’s sermon is a translation of a sermon from 1531. Copyright © 1996 by Word & World, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.