Today is the first Sunday in the Season of Advent. The word “advent" signifies the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. Synonyms for advent include arrival, appearance, emergence, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development… you get the picture. For Christians, the Season of Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar. It is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ into the world. He is, after all, the most notable person of our faith, and his coming in human flesh is the most notable event of our faith. Yes, he came to die for our sins on the cross, and yes, he came to rise from the dead so that we too can live though we die. But first he had to come in human flesh. Advent is a time to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. We string lights on our homes and on our trees to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. His coming brings us hope, and that is something desperately need in our world today. Everyone needs hope. Hope is essential to a healthy life. The Bible reminds us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick….” (Proverbs 13:12) Hope is something we cannot live without.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl, spent many long years as a prisoner of war in Auschwitz, Germany during World War II. He observed firsthand the power of hope and the effects of the loss of hope. He writes, “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future (that’s what hope is), his future was doomed. With his loss of faith in the future he also lost his spiritual hold. He let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.” (From his book, Man’s Search for Meaning) No one can live without hope. We all need to believe that the future holds something better for us.
The message of Advent is hope. Jesus’ coming into the world brought hope and his second coming will bring the fulfillment of all that we hope for. This hope of which I speak is available to everyone and is the result of a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he wasn’t just another baby born to another peasant couple living on the outskirts of nowhere. There was something very different about him. In fact, seven hundred years earlier, the prophet Isaiah announced his coming. He writes, “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.” (Isaiah 9:6) In this passage, Isaiah gives us four titles to describe Jesus and each gives us reason for hope. Today we are going to look at these four titles and what they mean.
THE FIRST IS “WONDERFUL COUNSELOR.” JESUS AS YOUR COUNSELOR REVEALS GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU. Jesus didn’t need a counselor, but we do. He didn’t need any advisors, but we do. Being God, he’s omniscient. That means he’s all knowing. There isn’t anything he doesn’t know. You can’t fool God. He’s all knowing. And here’s the thing: he knows us, the good, the bad and the ugly, and he still loves us. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus is the most wonderful counselor because he knows all about us and he still loves us and gave his life for us.
Jesus is the most wonderful counselor in that he embodies God’s unconditional love for us. He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, yours and mine, and everyone’s who puts their faith in him. The Bible says, “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17) But Jesus didn’t just die so we could get to heaven. Jesus died so we could get to God. Do you realize that the God of the universe wants to be with you? He wants to come along side you and counsel you through this life. He is a wonderful counselor. Literally translated, he is a wonder of a counselor. The Hebrew word there for “wonderful” often refers to the impact that is created by a supernatural act of God. The God of the universe wants to come alone side you and impact your life with his supernatural act of love. He wants to create miracles in your life.
THE SECOND TITLE IS “MIGHTY GOD.” JESUS AS MIGHTY GOD MEANS HE IS IN CONTROL OF ALL THINGS. Being God, Jesus is sovereign. That’s an attribute of God. His sovereignty means he is in control of all things. Nothing happens in my life or yours that is outside of his knowing or outside of his control. Jesus doesn’t cause all things. He certainly doesn’t cause the bad things that happen, but he does allow them to happen and he uses them to grow our faith and transform our lives into mature disciples. He is more interested in our becoming like Christ than in us getting through this life unscathed. In our suffering we have our greatest opportunity to demonstrate our faith. The apostle James says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forces into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4)
Peter alludes to this same line of thinking when he says, “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1st Peter 1:6-7)
God accomplishes his purposes through your problems. He is in control. No matter what is happening in your life, you can be confident that Jesus as the mighty God is in complete control. He has all power and authority in heaven and on earth at his disposal. He holds your life together, so no matter what is going on around you or even within you, Christ as Mighty God is there, holding you together.
For centuries scientists have wondered how atoms hold together, particularly how protons and neutrons cling together in the nucleus of an atom. The protons are positively charged and the neutrons have no charge, so scientists are baffled by what holds them together. If you’ve ever played with magnets as a child you know that like charges repel one another. So why don’t they repel each other in the nucleus of an atom?
Dr. Karl Darrow, a highly respected physicist at Bell laboratories in New Jersey, had this to say about it, “…all the massive nuclei have no right to be alive at all. Indeed, they should never have been created, and, if created, they should have blown up instantly. Yet here they all are… Some inflexible inhibition is holding them relentlessly together. The nature of the inhibition is also secret… one thus far reserved by Nature for herself.”
Dr. Darrow has failed to understand that the nature of this force that holds all things together is not a “what” but a “who.” The Bible tells us that, “…in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17b) The words “hold together” literally mean “to cohere, to be constituted with.” In other words, according to the Bible, Jesus is literally holding everything together.
John MacArthur in his commentary on Colossians says, “Not only did Jesus create the universe; he also sustains it. He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life’s existence. He quite literally holds all things together. He is the power behind every consistency in the universe.”
Dr. Douglas Moo in his commentary on Colossians says, “What holds the universe together is not an idea or a virtue, but a person: the resurrected Christ. Without him, electrons would not continue to circle nuclei, gravity would cease to work, and the planets would not stay in their orbits.”
Do you really think that if Jesus can hold the entire universe together with its two hundred and twenty five billion galaxies, that your problems are too difficult for him? There is nothing that can happen in your life that is outside the power of Jesus.
Let’s go back to the force that holds protons and neutrons together for a minute. Scientists call it the strong force. It’s stronger than any other force they’ve identified. It’s 6,000 billion, billion, billion, billion times stronger than gravity. But here’s the thing: the strong force only operates at extremely small distances. We’re talking a billion times smaller than a strand of hair. So even though it is the strongest force, it only works on protons and neutrons that are closest to it.
If nature teaches us anything, it teaches us this: If you want Jesus to hold your life together, you need to stay close to Him. The closer you are to Him, the stronger His force to hold you together will be. When people all around you are coming undone, you need to stay close to Jesus so He can hold you together.
THE THIRD TITLE IS “EVERLASTING FATHER.” JESUS AS THE EVERLASTING FATHER TELLS US HE KEEPS HIS PROMISES. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “He is the sole expression of the glory of God and He is the perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature….” (Hebrews 1:3a) Jesus has the same nature as God the Father. He embodies the truthfulness and honesty of God the Father. He will never lie to us. He will never disappoint us. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 24:1) That’s a promise you can count on. The Bible says, “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” That’s a promise you can count on. The Bible says, “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree; he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psalm 92:12-13) That’s a promise you can count on.
The Bible says, “Do not fear for I am with you; do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you and uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) That’s a promise you can count on. The Bible says, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) That’s a promise you can count on. It is the very nature of our God to keep his promises.
THE FOURTH TITLE IS “PRINCE OF PEACE.” JESUS AS THE PRINCE OF PEACE MEANS HE MAKES RECONCILIATION WITH GOD POSSIBLE. He has made peace between us and God. That is what Isaiah is referring to when he calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. Peace is something our world desperately needs. Some of the warring factions have been fighting with each other for 1400 years. Islamic barbarism goes all the way back to the 6th century. In recent years it has gone virtually unchecked and we’re now looking at the possibility of WORLD WAR THREE. Is there any hope? How can there be peace and reconciliation?
The Bible tells us, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel….” (Colossians 1:21-23) The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ made restitution for our sins. He took our punishment on the cross. Now we have peace with God. The Bible says, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
We have peace with God through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Don Richardson was a missionary serving in Indonesia. He was assigned to work with a tribe called the Sawi. The Sawi were a ruthless people, constantly at war with the tribes in neighboring villages. These people celebrated treachery, deceit and murder. Because of this, Richardson didn’t think there was any hope of these people being evangelized. As he got to know them he learned that there was a tradition among the Sawi called the peace child. A child from a neighboring village would be given to the Sawi and as long as that child was alive there would be peace between the two villages. He was able to use that custom as an analogy for the reconciling work of Christ. He told them that Jesus Christ was God’s peace child to all people everywhere. His presence is always with us because He is the eternal son of God and therefore we can always have peace with God through Him. This was the breakthrough he needed with the Sawi people. As a result many of them came to know Christ as their Savior.
Jesus Christ is indeed our Peace Child. His living presence among us has established peace for us with God. His living presence within us enables us to have peace with God and peace with one another. That’s good news because our world desperately needs peace. If there is any hope of peace in the world it will come through the Prince of Peace. The Psalmist proclaimed, “My soul finds rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:5)
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 64:8)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)