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(almost enitrely J. Gerhardt)

Isaiah 9:2-7

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Christmas Eve
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Thu, Dec 24, 2020 

In Proverbs eight, the Wisdom of God says, “The Lord possessed Me at the beginning of His ways; even before He made anything, I was there.  When He laid the foundation of the earth, I was the master workman at His side . . . and My pleasure is with the children of men.” Concerning these words, the Holy Spirit has given us a glorious explanation in Saint John chapter one: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was with God in the beginning.  All things were made by Him, and nothing of what was made was made without Him.  And the Word became Flesh and lived among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the Only-born Son from the Father, full of Grace and Truth.

In these verses of King Solomon and John, by the words “Wisdom” and “Word” the Son of God is to be understood.  This Wisdom says of Himself, “The Lord possessed Me at the beginning of His ways; even before He made anything, I was there.” He teaches that He did not have His beginning with the other created things, but that the Father possessed Him as He began the work of creation.

The Wisdom of God further says that He was the master workman at the side of God the Father as He laid the foundation of the earth, which John explains this way: All things were made through the Word.

Finally, John states: The Word became flesh and lived among us.  When the Wisdom of God says His pleasure is with the children of men, He indicates the wonderful mystery of becoming man.  God’s Wisdom bore such a desire to be with us poor children of men that He not only wanted to be around and next to us.  Much more, He also wanted to be clothed with our flesh and blood, to live with us as one of us.

From all this it becomes apparent that Solomon prophesied concerning this great mystery and in spirit rejoiced that from His seed God’s Son wanted to assume human nature.  In a similar manner, the prophets proclaimed this mystery and highly rejoiced over the future revelation of the Son of God in the flesh.  Christ says that kings and prophets had yearned to see what the apostles saw: The Word of Life, God’s Son revealed in the flesh. 

The prophet Isaiah gives witness to us about this.  He proclaims what kind of benefits the incarnation of the Son of God brings us.  Isaiah says, “The people who were wandering in darkness see a great Light, and it shines brightly upon those who reside in the land of darkness.” These words are applied to God’s Son revealed in the flesh, that through Him a great light has arisen upon those who sat in the place and shadow of death.  So the first fruit of the incarnation of the Son of God is light.

Since the Fall, we continuously, by nature, sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.  We are deprived of the light of divine knowledge.  We have a darkness of heart.  We walk in the unfruitful works of darkness.  Later the hellish, eternal darkness follows as a result of these works.  Saint Paul says: We are by nature darkness, from which there is no rescue or help. 

On account of this situation, the Son of God, the true Light, came into the world and brought us again to the true Light and made us into children of light.

The Son of God is the self-sustaining Light, the express image of the Father and the brightness of His glory.  He had compassion on us who so miserably lay in darkness, and He wanted to once again bring us to the Light.  But if He had come to us in His unfiltered divinity, then we could not have tolerated His divine light.  In the same way the shepherds, as they saw the brightness of this Lord shine forth around the angel, were very much terrified.  Even much more, we would have been terrified if this divine Light had appeared to us.  It is the kind of light to which no man can come near.  That is why Christ, the Light, clothes and conceals Himself in our flesh and blood.

Through this Son of God revealed in the flesh, this divine Light concealed, we are once more brought to the true light, which we could never have been able to find by the feeble light of our reason.

This is the true Light that shined in the darkness.  He is the Light of the world.  Whoever follows Him does not wander in darkness.  Instead he will have the Light of Life.  That is why He also was called the star of Jacob and the bright Morning Star.  He was born of God the Father before creation, and born of Mary in the fullness of time as true Man.  He brought forth the true light to us poor humans who sat in darkness.  As this Light shined in dark places, the Morning Star of the knowledge of God arose in our hearts.

As God the Father divided the light from darkness at the creation through His Son, so He especially in redemption wanted to bring us back to the divine light through this Son whom He sent in the flesh.  As Paul beautifully says, “God, who called the light to shine forth out of the darkness, has given a bright Light into our hearts so that the illumination of the brightness of God in the face of Jesus Christ might begin within us.”

Even though this worthy little Child was born in sheer night, yet His brightness shone forth around the angel who proclaimed His birth, to show that through the birth of this little Child the true Light was being brought to us who sat in darkness.  Isaiah rejoices over this with gladness: “Arise, shine!  For your Light comes, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  For look, darkness covers the world, and deep darkness the people; the Lord arises upon you and His glory shines on you.”

The other fruit of the Son of God’s incarnation is spiritual joy.  “You enlarge the Gentile nations.  You increase the joy.” With these words, Isaiah proclaims that when this light arises – when the Son of God revealed Himself in the flesh and allowed His Gospel to openly break forth – He thus increased the Gentiles, especially since after Christ’s incarnation the universal call of the heathen had its beginning.

Such joy is like the time of harvest, since from then on it has no longer been only a few first-fruits from the Gentiles that were gathered into the kingdom of God.  Rather, it now applies to the entire harvest, so that all nations in great numbers come to this Light.  The totality of the Gentiles enter in, says Paul.

Joy emanates from Christ becoming Man because He placed Himself under the Law in our place to rescue us from its harsh yoke.  As the time became ripe, God sent His Son, born of a woman and placed under the Law, in order for Him to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive the established rights of children.  Isaiah describes this rescue from the Law with special beauty when he says: This little new-born Child has shattered the yoke of our burden, the rod on our shoulder, and the stick of our slave-driver.  The Law is a heavy yoke that we are unable to carry; it pushes us down so that we are unable to stand up with genuine confidence.  In the same way Moses is a precise, demanding slave-driver, always requiring more from us.  God is not satisfied by outward works; He wants to have a total inward and outward obedience.  In former times, the overseers in Egypt continually drove the people of Israel to work.  In the same way Moses is constantly after us to force us to work.  If we do not do enough, then he takes the rod and beats on our shoulders, proclaims curses and punishments to all who in the least bit deviate from the Law and do not keep it perfectly.  From such a yoke and stick of the slave-driver, Christ has rescued us as He assumed our flesh and blood, placed Himself under the Law in our place, kept the Law and performed a perfect obedience of it.

Our spiritual joy comes into being because God’s Son was born of Mary in order to redeem us.  The angel announced Christ’s birth, “Look, I proclaim great joy to you, for to you is born today the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” His salvation is this: that the newly born little Child has rescued us from the Law so that it no longer presses upon us like an unbearable yoke.  Instead we, through the Holy Spirit, now have a desire for the Law according to the inward man.  Even though we are not so fully obedient as we should be, even so we please God for the sake of this little Child born for us – who with total obedience fulfilled the Law in our place, redeemed us from the curse of the Law, and for whose sake the remaining sins of the flesh and what still lacks in our obedience is not charged against us.  So then, true joy in the heart is this: that we who formerly, as lazy servants, could hardly ever by force be brought to the point where we were obedient to the Lord, now when we hear that Christ has redeemed us from the plague of the Law, we willingly and from the heart serve God with joy and obedience.

The third fruit of Christ’s incarnation is peace.  All war with violent tumult and bloody garment will be burned and destroyed with fire; that is, God the Lord will take away armor and weaponry and establish a genuine peace.  However, this is to be understood as true, inner peace of the heart and spirit, because the Son of God in His assumed human nature has again reconciled us with the Father, where formerly we were His enemies.

Since we have reason to rejoice in the fact that we are rescued from the Law, behold, we can thus have peace in the heart.  Otherwise nothing but unrest would be within us if we did not know whether we had adequately slaved for the Law.  But after Christ crushed this yoke, the true peace of heart exists.  That is why the prophet also calls this new-born King a Prince of Peace.

God fill our hearts with Light, Joy, and Peace in Christ.  Amen.

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