Sermon title:  CHRISTMAS THROUGH ISAIAH’S EYES

Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7

   

                            Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, December 16, 2018

 

 

 

 

When we look at the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke,

we read in Luke 1:26 & 27 that

 

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth,

a town in Galilee,

to a virgin pledged to be married

to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.

The virgin's name was Mary. 

 

Luke then goes on

to give us the Christmas story through Mary’s eyes:

-- her conversation with the angel,

-- her visit to her relative Elizabeth,

-- Mary’s exclamations of praise to God

-- how she gave birth in a stable

-- how she took the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem,

and how the old man Simeon prophesied

about Jesus and about Mary.

 

--All through Mary’s eyes.

 

On the other hand, when we open the Gospel of Matthew

to Matthew Chapter 1,

we find the Christmas story here

presented through Joseph’s eyes.

 

We have Joseph’s genealogy,

showing him to be descended

from the royal family of King David.

 

And in Verse 19, we read that,

when his wife-to-be was

 

“found to be with child through the Holy Spirit,”

Joseph  

“did not want to expose her to public disgrace.”

Instead,

“he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 

20 But after he had considered this,

an angel of the Lord appeared to him

in a dream and said,

 

"Joseph son of David,

do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,

because what is conceived in her

is from the Holy Spirit.

 

21 She will give birth to a son,

and you are to give him the name Jesus,

because he will save his people from their sins."

 

And then it says,

 

22 All this took place

to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

 

23 "The virgin will be with child

and will give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel"

--which means, "God with us."

 

That “prophet” was the prophet Isaiah.

 

By inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit,

Isaiah wrote centuries ahead of time

about the virgin birth of the Son of God.

 

In fact, if we open our Bibles to the Old Testament book of Isaiah,

we’ll see that he wrote prophetically

about many details of Jesus birth,    life,   and   death.

 

And that’s why—

       to get another perspective—

                I’d like to look at Christmas

through Isaiah’s eyes.

 

The first passage is found in Isaiah, Chapter 7, Verse 14.

 

This is the passage that was quoted by Matthew,

and it says,

 

“"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:

The virgin will be with child

and will give birth to a son,

and will call him Immanuel."

 

“Immanuel” is one of Jesus’ names,

and Matthew explains that its meaning in Hebrew is

"God with us."

 

And, of course, this is where we get

the name of Immanuel Baptist Church.

 

So, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ,

Isaiah was inspired to write this.

 

He was blessed with the privilege

of foretelling our Lord Jesus’ miraculous birth,

and that the child born

would be “Immanuel,” meaning "God with us."

 

And then, if we turn ahead two chapters to Isaiah, Chapter 9,

we’ll look at the other verses

that made up our Responsive Reading this morning,

and that elaborate on Christmas through Isaiah’s eyes.

 

Isaiah 9:1 gives us the setting—the initial location—

for that first Christmas:

 

It will be Galilee, the northern province

of the land of Israel.

 

We read a couple minutes ago in Luke 1:26 & 27, that

 

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth,

a town in Galilee,

to a virgin pledged to be married

to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.

The virgin's name was Mary.” 

 

So, Isaiah 9:1 is talking here about Galilee,

as the setting and location

for this miraculous birth

that will result in “God with us.”

He says,

 

1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom

for those who were in distress.

 

In the past he humbled

the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,

but in the future he will honor

Galilee of the Gentiles,

by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

 

2 The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.

 

Notice that Isaiah starts out calling Galilee

the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.”

 

That’s because this northern part of the Promised Land

near the Sea of Galilee

was originally settled by those two tribes of Israel:

the tribe of Zebulun and the tribe of Naphtali.

 

That was centuries before Isaiah’s time,

right after Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt

and brought them to the land God promised to give them.

 

The 12 tribes of Israel were each assigned by God

certain portions of the land.

 

And that area around the Sea of Galilee

was assigned to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali.

 

Isaiah also calls it “Galilee of the Gentiles,”

and that’s because around 700 BC

the Assyrian Empire

conquered the northern kingdom of Israel.

 

The Assyrians then removed much of the Jewish population

and replaced them with non-Jewish Gentiles.

 

And it was in that area

that we later find the town of Nazareth

where the angel visited Mary—

where the Christmas story begins.

 

The land of Galilee was humbled

by that Assyrian conquest

and the population shift that was forced on it.

 

But Isaiah foretold that, in a time yet future from Isaiah’s day,

 

in the future he will honor

Galilee of the Gentiles,

by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

 

2 The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.

 

And that’s because Jesus would carry on his ministry there.

 

The people in Galilee were “walking in darkness”

because the Gentiles who were re-settled there

had brought in their pagan religious beliefs,

which ended up getting mixed with Judaism.

 

But in the future time Isaiah was pointing to

Jesus would grow up in Nazareth

and would perform his first miracle in Cana of Galilee.

 

Jesus would make Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee his home.

 

So, the people “walking in darkness” would “see a great light”

through the Son of God

residing among them,

performing miracles among them

and preaching Good News to them.

--------------------------------------

Then, in the next three verses,

Isaiah foretells some of the things Jesus would accomplish.

 

3 You have enlarged the nation

and increased their joy;

they rejoice before you

as people rejoice at the harvest,

as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

 

God would ‘enlarge the nation’ by adding Gentiles

to the congregation of his people.

 

For centuries God had been using the nation of Israel

as his special Chosen People

to preserve the Sacred Scriptures

and to prepare the way for the Messiah.

 

But, through the ministry of Jesus and his Apostles

God would ‘enlarge the nation’

into a spiritual Israel--

a Christian Church that would include

people of all nationalities

and that would spread over the whole earth.

 

Isaiah continues,

 

4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,

you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,

the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor.

 

Just as God defeated the Midianites

who had been oppressing the people of Israel,

now he would liberate all humankind worldwide

from the yoke of sin

that everyone had been weighed down by

like a bar across their shoulders.

 

The oppressor, Satan the Devil, would be defeated by Christ,

just as in the day of Midian’s defeat.

 

In the next verse Isaiah says,

 

5 Every warrior's boot used in battle

and every garment rolled in blood

will be destined for burning,

will be fuel for the fire.

 

And that’s because Christ would be the “Prince of Peace

as Isaiah tells us in the next verse:

 

6 For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Whenever I read that verse,

I feel I’m doing an inadequate job of reading it.

 

 I prefer to hear Isaiah 9:6 read,

the way it sounds in Handel’s Messiah:

[  PLAY  ]

 

Now that’s the way Isaiah 9:6 must sound

when the angels of heaven read it.

 

Through Isaiah’s eyes,

we see the holy birth of the Christ child:

 

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given.”

 

That’s Christmas morning,

the virgin birth Isaiah had mentioned earlier,

the birth of the child who is “Immanuel”—

“God with us.”

 

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 

By the most amazing miracle,

that baby born in Bethlehem on Christmas day—

that baby Jesus

would prove to be the Wonderful Counselor,

the Mighty God,

the Everlasting Father,

the Prince of Peace.

 

“and the government will be on his shoulders.”

 

Our Lord Jesus is King in the Kingdom of God.

 

 As Christians we are citizens of that government,

and we give our highest loyalty to that government,

and we pray,

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

Christ is coming again.

 

And, when he comes, he will rapture us away,

to be with him in heaven forever.

 

And then, as Prince of Peace,

he will wage war the final war of Armageddon

against the governments of the nations.

 

He will put an end

to all those corrupt human governments,

with their wars and scandals and oppressions.

 

The government “upon his shoulders”

will replace all the inadequate human governments.

 

In Verse 7, Isaiah says,

 

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

 

He will reign on David's throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

---------------------------

 

Isaiah also saw the time that Luke 4:17 describes

when it says that Christmas child

was a 30-year-old man,

 and stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth:

 

17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.

Unrolling it, he found the place

where it is written:

 

18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

 

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

 

20 Then he rolled up the scroll,

gave it back to the attendant and sat down.

 

The eyes of everyone in the synagogue

were fastened on him,

21 and he began by saying to them,

"Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

 

Yes, our Lord Jesus introduced himself to the world

by reading those words from Isaiah Chapter 61.

 

Isaiah also foresaw how Christ would become

 “a precious cornerstone” according to Isaiah 28:16,

the cornerstone of a world-wide Christian Church.

 

The 11th Chapter of Isaiah shows

that the prophet knew it would be a worldwide Church.

 

He prophesied at Isaiah 11:10

that the Gentile nations—

non-Jewish peoples around the world—

would embrace the Jewish Messiah:

 

“In that day the Root of Jesse

will stand as a banner for the peoples;

the nations will rally to him,

and his place of rest will be glorious.”

 

Isaiah Chapter 42 also prophesies

that Christ would bring justice

to the non-Jewish Gentile nations.

 

And that’s what happened

when the Gospel of Christ reached our pagan ancestors

in our various countries of origin.

 

They stopped making human sacrifices

to idols of wood and stone.

 

The Gospel message changed the world for the better.

 

And in the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah,

each of us who has accepted Jesus Christ

as our Lord and Savior,

can see our salvation through Isaiah’s eyes.

 

The prophet describes there at Isaiah 53:4-5

how Jesus would take upon himself

the burden of our infirmities,

our sorrows,

and our sins—our iniquities

and how Jesus would take upon himself

the punishment meant for us,

so that we can enjoy the peace of God:

It says,

4 Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

 

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

 

Thank God!—that by “wounds” Christ suffered on the cross,

 “we are healed.”

 

We come out from under Satan’s oppression

and we come out from under the burden of sin.

--------------------------------------------

 

So, when we look at Christmas through Isaiah’s eyes,

we see the virgin birth

of the child who would be “Immanuel”—“God with us.”

 

Isaiah shows us the holy child of Christmas:

“unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given.”

 

And Isaiah shows us

that the Christmas child is our Lord and Savior

who takes away our sins

and gives us blessed assurance of everlasting life.